criminal justice | KGOU
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criminal justice

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.
TWITTER.COM/OKLADOC

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.

District Attorney David Thomas, who represents Greer, Harmon, Jackson, Kiowa and Tillman counties, closes the door at the start of the private District Attorneys Association meeting on June 20.
Whitney Bryen / Oklahoma Watch

The meeting room is like so many others in Oklahoma, with a standard conference table, overhead projector and wall map. Attendees exchange small talk and grab coffee from the back of the room.

Oklahoma Supreme Court chambers
Jacob McCleland / KGOU

The Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled Tuesday a campaign to expand government health insurance for low-income residents can move forward. KGOU's Dick Pryor and eCapitol's Shawn Ashley discuss the court's decision, which came just hours after hearing oral arguments.   

X-ray of Daniel Bosh’s back post surgery.
Courtesy Spencer Bryan / Bryan & Terrill Law

When a private citizen’s civil rights are violated by the government, typically, they have the opportunity to sue, but under a recent Oklahoma Supreme Court decision, that might not be the case for inmates in Oklahoma jails and detention centers.

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

Multiple polls show the majority of Oklahoma voters support criminal justice reforms.

Survey data commissioned by Oklahoma Public Radio stations for the Oklahoma Engaged Project also suggest a majority of voters believe the state’s sentencing laws need to be reworked.

Oklahoma is now the number one incarcerator in the country, but only one bill targeting prison population control reached the governor’s desk this session.

Jessica Collett, assistant sexual assault nurse examiner coordinator at the Women’s Resource Center in Norman, demonstrates the dangers of strangulation on a mannequin head.
Whitney Bryen / Oklahoma Watch

On a June night last year, an argument broke out at an Atoka County home.

A woman’s teenage daughter was playing loud music, and her husband asked her to tell the daughter to turn the music off. The argument escalated, and the woman said her husband “put both hands around her neck and choked her” so that “she felt her body being lifted off of the ground by her neck,” a court affidavit said.

Sue Ogrocki/AP Images

In this episode of Capitol Insider, KGOU's Dick Pryor and eCapitol's Shawn Ashley discuss the final week of the 2019 legislative session. After approving a budget, lawmakers passed several criminal justice reforms, but they left one on the table: bail reform. 

Lawmakers adjourned the 2019 legislative session Thursday. StateImpact reporters followed a number of issues this year. They sit down to talk about the bills that made it to the end of the session and those that are in limbo.

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