During the 2016 session, the Oklahoma State Legislature and the Governor recognized the need for reforms in our criminal justice systems. Let us work together in the upcoming election, including voting on key policy issues and, in the 2017 session, bringing substance to our goals of making the criminal justice system work for all.
None of the criminal justice issues we tackle today can be easily "fixed." All are multifaceted, requiring us to target prevention so our children can have brighter futures and restoration so that all can contribute to a better world.
CRIMINAL JUSTICE REFORM
Criminal Justice challenges facing Oklahoma are subjects for the local news on a nightly basis. Over-crowding of our prisons has received much coverage, as has our ranking as the top state in the nation in the incarceration of women. Data released by the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics also show that Oklahoma had the second highest [total] incarceration rate in the nation in 2014, at 700 inmates per 100,000 population. The national rate was 471. (
Oklahoma Watch 1-7-2016)
The "botched" nature of Oklahoma's application of the death penalty has made the national news. For more discussion on criminal justice issues, click this link to read
What's Driving Oklahoma's Prison Population Growth
and other related articles prepared by the Oklahoma Policy Institute.
You may also want to review the
Oklahomans for Criminal Justice Reform
website that provides a summary of the state questions about criminal justice reform that will be on the November general election ballot. If passed, SQ 780 and 781 will lower the prison population in Oklahoma, with the savings being deposited into a fund for rehabilitation. OCJR
is conducting public meetings about these issues across the state. Click here to find one near you.
(SJMN will deal with all the state questions in the October issue of this newsletter.) For more in-depth criminal justice data, all recent Oklahoma Department of Corrections Annual Reports can be reviewed at this link: DOC.
A glance through the Annual Reports of the Oklahoma Department of Corrections well demonstrates the ratios of races and ethnicities in our prisons is skewed markedly from the ratio of races and ethnicities in the general population. (See graphic above.) The problem has become so prevalent it has been dubbed
The New Jim Crow,
which is the title of a book by Michelle Alexander. Reading it is an eye-opening experience.
The greatest service people of faith can do regarding criminal justice lies in the realm of
prevention. Two areas are of a
bsolute importance: diverting our children from entering the criminal justice system in the first place, and keeping people whose real need is mental health services out of the criminal justice system.
The School-to-Prison-Pipeline Project advocates for services and education targeted at keeping children away
from crime. For more information, please click this link for FACT SHEET.
For more information on mental health services and criminal justice, please click this link for MENTAL HEALTH.