2017 October POINT!

Criminal Justice Reform Continues in Oklahoma County, Statewide

S ince late 2015, the Chamber’s Oklahoma County Criminal Justice Reform Task Force has led the call for smart and safe criminal justice reform in Oklahoma County. Since that time, the task force engaged the Vera Institute of Justice to understand the factors that drive the jail’s population. The task force found that 75 percent of arrests are for a misdemeanor or lower crimes and 80 percent of people brought into the Oklahoma County jail are under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol. There are few diversion programs for mental health or substance abuse treatment. Vera also found that the accrual of fines and fees keep lower-income people in jail longer than their charge would indicate. After a more in-depth study spanning nine months, the task force released key findings and recommendations in December 2016. Read on for a recap of how the Chamber’s criminal justice reform task force is implementing some of these recommendations to reduce the number of people in the Oklahoma County jail. Establishing a permanent oversight body As a central recommendation of the report, establishing a permanent oversight body is key to

implementing other criminal justice reforms. An inter-local agreement between Oklahoma County, the City of Oklahoma City, the City of Edmond and the City of Midwest City to create the Oklahoma County Criminal Justice Advisory Council (CJAC) has been approved by all four government bodies. The 19-member advisory council plans to begin meeting in the fall. Examining bail and pre-trial practices The task force assembled a committee specifically to address the recommendations around bail and pre- trial practices. With leadership from committee chair Judge Cindy Truong, there has been a significant increase in nonfinancial releases and a much quicker approval process. Court Services, a pre-trial services agency, increased staff hours at the jail to include some weekend coverage and two judges are on call seven days a week to consider releasing individuals under recognizance or with conditional release bonds. As a result, there have been 397 releases approved in just under one-and-a-half months, compared to around 100-120 per month previously. Additionally, 32 people have been released to a new pretrial program from The Education and Employment

THE POINT - OCTOBER 2017 10

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