Poynter Institute holds criminal justice education seminar in OKC
The focus in Oklahoma County on reducing incarceration and improving processes in our justice system continues to attract attention from across the country. This focus led the Poynter Institute, a prominent international resource for journalism education to bring a two-day seminar to Oklahoma City. On August 1st and 2nd, more than 40 journalists from across the US gathered here to take part in a seminar on covering jails.
The seminar was funded in part by the Safety and Justice Challenge (supported by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation), The Marshall Project and Vera Institute of Justice. The program focused on the causes and consequences of local jail incarceration and how communities are addressing the issues.
Al Tompkins, the Institute’s senior faculty for broadcast and online, led the seminar. Tompkins said the reason Oklahoma City was selected for this seminar is the incredible story of what is happening here. “We haven’t seen the involvement of the business community in criminal justice reform the way in any other place,” he said. “It is unique and powerful.”
Telling that story of Oklahoma County’s process and the business community’s involvement was a featured portion of the program. Greater Oklahoma City Chamber President Roy Williams delivered a 45-minute presentation about how and why Oklahoma County overhauled its system.
Williams relayed the history of how the business community came to understand that as a community, we weren’t addressing the needs of people in our community that most need help. While facilities issues at the jail were the instigator of the effort, the processes of the system have been the focus of the work.
Williams said the Chamber’s leadership understood there isn’t enough money to continue on this path of growing mass incarceration. He said, “We began to see that we are all impacted by the criminal justice system – or will be. It’s time that we talk about how this impacts our community, our businesses and our families. This is a problem that isn’t going to solve itself and it is just going to continue grow if we don’t help.” Williams relayed the importance of developing the whole community and quality of life to compete economically going forward.
Other sessions in the two-day event focused on incarceration trends across the country, the impacts of immigration and the opioid crisis, and the use of data in telling the story about jails. Journalists attending the seminar came from more than 14 states and included a large contingent from Oklahoma.