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Incarceration Of Black Oklahomans Up Disproportionately During Pandemic: Report

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FWD.us / Terence Crutcher Foundation
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Chart from a December joint report from FWD.us and the Terence Crutcher Foundation on Black incarceration in Oklahoma during the COVID-19 pandemic.

A new report from a pair of criminal justice advocacy group says the state of Oklahoma has disproportionately imprisoned Black residents during the COVID-19 pandemic.

"During COVID, the proportion of prison admissions for Black Oklahomans was nearly 1.5 times higher than usual," reads the report, jointly released this month by FWD.us and the Terence Crutcher Foundation. "In 2019, Black people accounted for 21% of all prison admissions in Oklahoma. However, Black people made up 30% of prison admissions in June 2020, a 43.5% increase from the prior period."

Dr. Tiffany Crutcher, founder of the Terence Crutcher Foundation, named for her twin brother who was shot and killed by Tulsa Police Department officer Betty Shelby in 2016, testified before a U.S. Commission on Civil Rights hearing conducted virtually on Dec. 15.

"I really would like to highlight that the jail and prison COVID-19 outbreaks are likely compounding racial inequalities and leading to senseless and tragic deaths," Crutcher said. 

"Black people are disproportionately more likely to contract COVID-19 and die of it, as are people in prisons and jails across the country," reads the report. " Oklahoma also has the second-highest imprisonment rate and the second-highest Black imprisonment rate in the country."

Crutcher said Black Oklahomans from Tulsa County are also overrepresented.

"Nearly two-thirds of Black people admitted to prisons during the pandemic came from Tulsa County," Crutcher testified. "Black people make up 11% of Tulsa's population but 38% of Tulsa's prison admissions in June of 2020."

According to the Oklahoma Department of Corrections, at least 6,700 inmates are known to have contracted the disease. COVID-19 is possibly related to at least 40 inmate deaths.

Chris joined Public Radio Tulsa as a news anchor and reporter in April 2020. He’s a graduate of Hunter College and the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism, both at the City University of New York.
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