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Addressing Prison Overcrowding and Community Mental Health in Oklahoma: A Chat with Kris Steele

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Aired on Thursday, August 18th.

The State of Oklahoma continues to top nationwide stats regarding the number of people it incarcerates. According to the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics, our state ranks second in the nation in its rate of incarceration at 700 per every 100,000 people; the national average is 471. Oklahoma also imprisons women at the highest rate in the country -- at a rate that's more than twice the national average. Come early November, voters statewide will consider two initiatives aimed at reversing these shameful and embarrassing trends. Specifically, State Questions 780 and 781 are both meant to address prison overcrowding and community mental health while also reducing sentences for those convicted of low-level, non-violent crimes. Our guest on this edition of ST is Kris Steele, the former Oklahoma Speaker of the House, who now directs The Education and Employment Ministry, which is a nonprofit that seeks to help newly released prison inmates across the state. Steele has long been a vocal proponent of criminal justice reform -- and of reinvestment in those who, having served their time, wish to re-enter society productively. He brings us up to speed on State Questions 780 and 781.

Rich Fisher passed through KWGS about thirty years ago, and just never left. Today, he is the general manager of Public Radio Tulsa, and the host of KWGS’s public affairs program, StudioTulsa, which celebrated its twentieth anniversary in August 2012 . As host of StudioTulsa, Rich has conducted roughly four thousand long-form interviews with local, national, and international figures in the arts, humanities, sciences, and government. Very few interviews have gone smoothly. Despite this, he has been honored for his work by several organizations including the Governor's Arts Award for Media by the State Arts Council, a Harwelden Award from the Arts & Humanities Council of Tulsa, and was named one of the “99 Great Things About Oklahoma” in 2000 by Oklahoma Today magazine.
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