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criminal justice

Quinton Chandler / StateImpact Oklahoma

Oklahomans struggling with substance abuse no longer have to wait to get into some of the most intensive treatment for addiction. Treatment providers believe a $10 million increase in funding from the state Legislature two years ago is now saving lives.

Poetic Justice and Se'Nae Starnes


Coronavirus restrictions were especially hard on Oklahoma’s prisoners. But hundreds of incarcerated women used a long distance writing program to connect with people outside prison walls. StateImpact’s Quinton Chandler reports the women and their penpals encouraged each other through the pandemic.

COVID-19 built new walls that further isolated Oklahoma’s prisoners from the rest of the world.

A woman waves from a prison window at Mabel Bassett Correctional Center in 2019.
Quinton Chandler / StateImpact Oklahoma

The chance to see visitors without putting them at risk is a strong incentive for Oklahoma prisoners to take COVID-19 vaccines.

Gov. Kevin Stitt and legislators celebrating a budget deal in the waning days of the 2019 legislative session.
Quinton Chandler / StateImpact Oklahoma

Oklahoma has made some big changes to its justice system in recent years. Activists and lawmakers proposed big picture reforms and some of the suggestions succeeded.

Legislative Service Bureau Photography. / Legislative Service Bureau Photography.

In his speech marking the start of the year’s legislative session on Monday, Governor Kevin Stitt didn’t mention ongoing efforts to reduce the state’s prison population and overhaul the criminal justice system.

Legislative Service Bureau (LSB) Photography

This is the Manager’s Minute.  

Recent events in Washington, D.C. stunned the nation. The rioting in the Capitol also reminded us of the importance of reliable, timely and accurate reporting, especially during adversity.  


Prisoners attend a graduation ceremony at Dick Conner Correctional Center. Educational programs are one way prisoners earn credits to take time off their sentences.
Quinton Chandler / StateImpact Oklahoma

Glen Blake told the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board this month that his clients seeking parole were just hit with hard news.

SQ805 Attacks Lengthy Prison Sentences; Opponents Say There Would Be Unintended Consequences

Oct 15, 2020
Voters line up to cast ballots shortly after precincts opened in Oklahoma City on Election Day in 2012.
Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

Oklahoma’s standards for punishing people convicted of crimes are shifting. In 2016, voters chose to reduce punishments for drug possession and some property crimes often associated with addiction.

‘We Are Still Human Beings’ Oklahoma Prisoners, Officials Adjust As COVID-19 Spreads

Sep 24, 2020
A woman waves from a prison window at Mabel Bassett Correctional Center in 2019.
Quinton Chandler / StateImpact Oklahoma

In the early days of the pandemic, Geneva Phillips was ordered to stay in her bunk nearly all day for almost a month. She remembers being sore and miserable.

Thousands gathered to denounce police killings in Oklahoma City.
Quinton Chandler / StateImpact Oklahoma

Oklahoma City police estimated at least 3,000 protesters rallied to a demonstration organized Sunday by the Oklahoma City chapter of Black Lives Matter. The protesters met to condemn the alleged murder of George Floyd.

Photo Courtesy Jobs For Felons Hub

Staff inside the Comanche County Detention Center knew they had a problem when the number of prisoners infected with Covid-19 reached 18 in early May.

Members of the Washita-Custer County Treatment Court during a community service event in 2019.
Courtesy of the Washita-Custer County Treatment Court

Sarah Morrow misses the routine and structure drug court provided.

“It’s just something to look forward to everyday,” Morrow said.

Morrow has asthma which means she could have a harder time recovering if she catches Covid-19 – the disease caused by the new coronavirus.

Jason Page and Paul Mullaney inside the state Capitol in 2018.
Quinton Chandler / StateImpact Oklahoma

Low pay is at the center of Oklahoma’s struggle to keep its prison employees.

Six-year veteran corrections officer Paul Mullaney quit over pay and working conditions just months after lawmakers approved a $2.00 raise for prison employees. He worked in the mental health unit of Joseph Harp Correctional Center in Lexington.

The extra money wasn’t enough to keep him.

Pardon and Parole Board members have drastically increased the number of recommendations for commutations and paroles in the last year.
Quinton Chandler / StateImpact Oklahoma

A popular desire for reform led lawmakers to push the release of hundreds of people from Oklahoma prisons in a record commutation last year. The climactic event was born from a series of reforms that have moved Oklahoma away from the number one spot for incarceration. But that progress might be temporary.

Robin Wertz interviews dozens of prisoners to determine who would be a good fit at the Oklahoma City Exodus House.
Quinton Chandler / StateImpact Oklahoma

The outside world was overwhelming when Robin Wertz was released from prison in 2007. Today, she helps others who are having that same experience as the site director of Exodus House, a transitional housing unit that helps people get back on their feet.

Quinton Chandler / StateImpact Oklahoma

People just released from prison could save themselves a lot of time and frustration if they talk to Robert Scott, the director of justice services at HOPE Community Services – a nonprofit that partners with the state to help people with behavioral health challenges.

Tulsa Police Department

A recent study found there wasn’t a relationship between race and Tulsa Police officers’ decisions to use force. Researchers from the University of Texas at San Antonio and the University of Cincinnati studied Tulsa to find ways to help Tulsa police in their encounters with the public.

Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt hand delivers hundreds of commutation certificates on Friday, November 1, 2019.

The state of Oklahoma plans to release hundreds of prisoners Monday after their sentences were reduced by the state's Pardon and Parole Board. 462 state prisoners could be sent home, which would represent the nation's largest single day commutation.

What's The Best Way To Run A Jail?

Sep 19, 2019
Tricia Everest chairs the Oklahoma County Criminal Justice Authority.
Quinton Chandler / StateImpact Oklahoma

Oklahoma County’s jail is run by the local sheriff, just like most counties in the state.

As news headlines about overcrowding, inmate deaths, lawsuits and maintenance issues became increasingly common, county officials and civic leaders called for a change in jail leadership.

Gary Leonhardt is a Democratic voter living in Norman.
Quinton Chandler / StateImpact Oklahoma

In 2016, Oklahoma voters passed two state questions intended to reduce the state’s prison population. Every year since, lawmakers have introduced bills designed to help decrease the number of people serving time.