Criminal Justice Reform

On this edition of ST, we welcome writer Connie Cronley back to our program. She's one of our regular commentators; her previous books include "Sometimes a Wheel Falls Off," "Light and Variable," "Poke a Stick at It," and "Mr. Ambassador: Warrior for Peace." Cronley joins us to discuss her latest book, "A Life on Fire," which is a fascinating new biography of Kate Barnard (1875-1930).

In a new motion filed Monday in the Western District Court of Oklahoma, prisoners who have tentative execution dates starting this fall are asking the court to reconsider its position on ‘medical experimentation.’ 


Capital punishment in Oklahoma has been on hiatus after a series of botched executions threw drug protocols into question.


Gov. Kevin Stitt

Gov. Kevin Stitt traveled to Dallas over the weekend to participate in a panel at the Conservative Political Action Conference, known as CPAC.

The 2021 theme was "America Uncanceled," and Stitt took part in a panel discussion with Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee on leadership, justice and jobs in the age of "wokeism."

American Conservative Union Chairman Matt Schlapp moderated and presented criminal justice reform as a conservative endeavor, whereas liberals want to defund police.

On today's ST, we are discussing a new book on race relations and American history that offers a bold, thorough, and eye-opening critique of our nation's criminal justice apparatus, its police operations, and indeed its entire legal system. Our guest is the well-regarded historian Elizabeth Hinton, who is an associate professor of history and African American studies at Yale University as well as a professor of law at Yale Law School.

Chris Polansky / KWGS News

Oklahoma's senior U.S. Senator, Jim Inhofe, visited the Tulsa Fallen Officers' Memorial at the Tulsa Police Academy Friday to recognize National Police Week and announce legislation that would provide federal funding to help train law enforcement officers in dealing with individuals experiencing mental illness.

"There's a lot of opposition to law enforcement," Inhofe said. "It's just unbelievable that there is. We thought we would get out where people could see us and really understand what this is all about."

Oklahoma County Sheriff's Office

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — A 65-year-old woman has died in the Oklahoma County jail, making her the sixth inmate to die at the lockup this year, a jail official said Wednesday.

The woman, whose name was not released, suffered undisclosed health issues and was under suicide watch when jail staff saw her arm go limp Tuesday night and called medical personnel, who pronounced her dead, according to jail spokesman Mac Mullings.

Population Reduction Could Help Improve Oklahoma County Jail Conditions

Apr 14, 2021
Oklahoma Watch

When U.S. Department of Justice investigators inspected the Oklahoma County Detention Center in April 2007, they discovered that severe overcrowding was causing significant harm to detainees. 

Tulsa County Sheriff's Office

This story was updated at 2:37 p.m. to include comment from the Tulsa County District Attorney's office received after initial publication.

Tulsa County must pay $175,000, the maximum allowed under statute, to a Tulsa man who suffered injuries during a 2016 incident in which Tulsa County Jail detention officers violently handled him, a jury has found.

The top item on criminal justice reform advocates’ agenda has stalled as the Oklahoma legislature passed its first major deadline.

Senate Bill 704 would have greatly limited the practice of lengthening prison sentences because of someone’s previous, nonviolent felony convictions. According to Oklahomans for Criminal Justice Reform, enhancements mean Oklahomans end up serving prison sentences 70% longer than the national average for property crimes and 79% longer for drug crimes. 

An Oklahoma lawmaker who is a proponent of reforming court fines and fees does not plan to carry legislation on it this year, dealing a blow to advocates who see that step as a priority.

During a panel discussion at Oklahoma Policy Institute’s budget summit this week, Senate Appropriations Chair Roger Thompson (R-Okemah) said Oklahoma’s courts are actually in line for a supplemental appropriation of around $15 million early in the legislative session because they haven’t collected enough in fines and fees this fiscal year. The pandemic is largely to blame.

Matt Trotter / KWGS

As Oklahomans started going to the polls on Thursday, more than 40 Tulsa faith leaders announced their support for State Question 805.

The measure would ban sentence enhancements for people convicted of nonviolent crimes. The religious leaders issued a statement in support of SQ805, citing Oklahoma’s disproportional incarceration rates and sentence lengths, especially for women and people of color.

Tom Holland-Wikimedia

Justice reform is on the table in Oklahoma, and state lawmakers want to know what steps they can take.

In an interim study this week, former senior vice president at Koch Industries Mark Holden, now with Americans for Prosperity, told them taking a look at the state’s criminal code would be a good start. That’s a move Gov. Kevin Stitt has said he wants to make.

Holden said an overhaul not only whittles down the number of reasons people can end up in prison, but it also narrows the job of police.

Google Maps Street View

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Unborn children are included in the definition of a “child” for purposes of prosecuting child neglect cases, an Oklahoma appeals court ruled on Thursday.

The Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals overturned a lower court ruling in a case involving Kearline Datara Anderson of Rogers County who was charged with child neglect after state prosecutors alleged she used illegal drugs while she was pregnant.

Governor Adds Criminal Justice Question To November Ballot

Aug 13, 2020
Facebook / Governor Kevin Stitt

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt on Wednesday added a state question on criminal justice to the Nov. 3 Election Day ballot.

Facebook / Oklahoma County Sheriff's Office

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Oklahoma City’s local Black Lives Matter chapter posted a total of $1.4 million in cash bonds to release four protesters from jail who were arrested and charged with various crimes during demonstrations against police brutality and racism.

With help from the National Bail Fund Network, Black Lives Matter paid a $750,000 bond to release Eric Christopher Ruffin on Thursday.

Photo From Wikipedia

Yesterday, the U.S. Supreme Court handed down a surprising 5-4 decision in the case of McGirt v. Oklahoma; the Court ruled that much of the eastern half of Oklahoma is still an Indian reservation. In doing so, the Court affirmed that -- because Congress had not expressly disestablished the Muskogee Creek Reservation, which was created well over a century ago -- that Reservation still exists when it comes to the Federal Major Crimes Act.

A conservative think tank is making the case for a ballot initiative that would do away with repeat offender sentence enhancements for nonviolent crimes.

The Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs found enhancements were applied 80% of the time, despite district attorneys saying they’re used selectively. OCPA Executive Vice President Trent England said people convicted of petty crime or struggling with addiction shouldn’t go to prison for decades.

Sen. James Lankford

Sen. James Lankford (R-OK) said Thursday that while he doesn't agree with those who say American policing is systemically racist, nor does he support an end to qualified immunity, he does believe in making some significant reform to the criminal justice system.

Oklahoma Group Submits Signatures for Sentencing Question

Jun 2, 2020

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — A group seeking to reduce Oklahoma’s high prison incarceration rate delivered more than 260,000 signatures to the state on Monday as part of its effort to get a state question on the ballot.

Volunteers with Yes on 805 delivered the boxes to the Oklahoma Secretary of State’s Office. They need about 178,000 signatures of registered voters to qualify the question for a statewide ballot. The governor will set the date of the election once the signatures have been counted.

The Yes on 805 campaign on Friday presented its case to the Oklahoma Supreme Court in a request to force the Secretary of State’s office to accept signatures to put a sentencing reform state question on the ballot.

The campaign filed a writ of mandamus last week asking the court to require its signatures be accepted in time to place State Question 805 on a 2020 ballot.

KWGS News File Photo

With attorneys and loved ones prohibited from visiting detainees at the Tulsa County Jail due to the risk of spreading the novel coronavirus, the Tulsa County Sheriff's Office says it is waiving video visitation fees for communications between attorneys and clients in custody. 

The Tulsa County Board of Commissioners on Monday approved an amendment to the county’s contract with Tech Friends, Inc., the Arkansas-based company that manages the jail’s video visitation system.

Gov. Kevin Stitt has approved commutations for 452 Oklahoma inmates, with 404 approved to time served and set for release on Thursday.

"We’ve been working diligently with the Pardon and Parole Board to safely reduce the prison population amidst the COVID-19 pandemic,” Stitt said in a statement. "In these unprecedented times, we must take action while safeguarding our Department of Corrections staff, inmate population and the public."