County takes major step in criminal justice reform
Criminal justice reform efforts in Oklahoma County took a significant step forward last month with the first meeting of the new Criminal Justice Advisory Council, an interlocal government council designed to institutionalize cooperation and planning for the criminal justice system in Oklahoma County.
The Council was established following a recommendation of the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber’s Criminal Justice Reform Task Force and was called out as the most critical step for reform.
“Instituting a coordinating body such as this will formalize our cooperative effort and set our county on a permanent path for a more effective and efficient system,” said Clay Bennett, who chaired the Chamber’s task force and was elected to serve as the first chair of the new council.
The stated goals of the Council are to study and evaluate the criminal justice system; collect and analyze data related to the criminal justice system; promote increased efficiency and effectiveness of the criminal justice system; recommend policies and programs to reduce recidivism, reduce jail population, and increase community and public safety; recommend policies and practices to control the costs of criminal justice system and incarceration; and increase community support for the criminal justice system.
The Council voted in its first meeting to establish subcommittees that would continue to work on recommendations made by the original task force with aims to reach these stated goals. Work over the past year has resulted in a reduction in the jail population from a peak of 2,700 to a current population below 1,900.
“We have made significant improvements in our pre-trial practices and in keeping many low-level offenders out of the jail entirely, but there is still more we can do,” said Bennett. “These task forces will continue to work toward full implementation of the report recommendations. We will develop a strategic plan for the coming year and work to see them met.”
An interlocal agreement between Oklahoma County, the City of Edmond, the City of Oklahoma City and the City of Midwest City formed the Council. Council membership includes: a member of the Board of Oklahoma County Commissioners, Ray Vaughn; the Presiding Judge of the Oklahoma County District Court, Tim Henderson; the Court Clerk of Oklahoma County, Rick Warren; the District Attorney of Oklahoma County, David Prater; the Sheriff of Oklahoma County, PD Taylor; the Oklahoma County Public Defender, Bob Ravitz; the Commissioner of the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services, Terri White; the City Manager of Oklahoma City, Jim Couch; the Presiding Judge of Oklahoma City Municipal Court, Philippa James; the Court Administrator of the City of Oklahoma City, LaShawn Thompson; the Chief of Police of Oklahoma City, Bill Citty; the City Manager of Edmond, Larry Stevens; the City Manager of Midwest City, Guy Henson; the President of the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber, Roy Williams; and an additional representative designated by the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber, Clay Bennett. There were also four community representatives that were designated by vote of the Council: Sue Ann Arnall, Pastor Theodis Manning, Dan Straughhan and Tony Tyler.
To review the report of the task force, see a copy of the interlocal agreement and find other information about the process that led to the formation of the council, visit www.smartsafeokco.com.