Recent CJAC report indicates justice reform progress still being made
According to the most recent quarterly report released by the Oklahoma County Criminal Justice Advisory Council, the Oklahoma County jail population averaged under 1,600 two months in a row (December 2019 and January 2020, the most recent data available for the February 2020 report). By comparison, the daily jail population for Feb. 15, 2015, just five years ago, was 2,403. These results are due to the innovative work various CJAC partners and community stakeholders undertake every day to redirect our neighbors into safer, more productive lifestyles.
Data Hub Pilot Project continues toward first test
To enable local officials to perform analyses and assessments of the justice system's performance, the CJAC Data Subcommittee explored the idea of a “Data Hub” to increase interoperability between Oklahoma County justice system partners. With the input of numerous stakeholders, the Data Subcommittee selected a pilot project to test the first iteration of the Data Hub. The pilot project centers around three key stakeholders: the judges and court clerks, the Sheriff’s Office staff handling inmate release, and a local service provider, NorthCare.
The goal of the pilot project is to expedite the transmission of judicial releases to the jail and the provider to move justice-involved individuals into services and treatment more quickly. The pilot project should also provide some data that can be analyzed. During the pilot project, paper copies will continue to be used to ensure no interruption in continuity of services.
Working with the Court Clerk and the judges, four judges have volunteered for their courtrooms to be used as test sites. The Court Clerk, working in partnership with the state Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC), is selecting appropriate equipment. The Court Clerk and AOC will develop training for the judges and courtroom clerks so test cases can begin before the end of the third quarter of the current fiscal year.
The Data Subcommittee’s focus is to gain a better understanding of issues preventing effective data collection and sharing within the criminal justice system, improve the capacity of all criminal justice system agencies for collecting and sharing data and begin implementation of projects to allow collection of system-wide data with online access available to the Advisory Council and system stakeholders.
New Book-and-Release process created for Cost Warrants
Former Presiding Judge Tom Prince, working with Special Judge April Collins, instituted a new Administrative Order allowing persons being jailed only for cost, traffic or wildlife warrants to have a new opportunity to fix their problems without jail time. The new procedure will allow such persons to be booked and released with a 10-day window to come back to Judge Collins’ court to work out a payment plan. The plan was presented to the Case Processing Subcommittee before approval and without any objections received full support.
In a news article in The Oklahoman by reporter Kayla Branch, then Presiding Judge Prince explained: “The idea is that there is no reason to keep someone overnight only on a cost warrant. We’ve made our point by having them arrested and brought to the county jail.” Special Judge Collins elaborated further: “I was just trying to make sure that people weren’t sitting there and getting left. What I really like is that there are a lot of people who maybe are going to work on Friday and then they get picked up. And then they don’t get to go to work over the weekend, and by Monday, they’ve lost their job and maybe then they get evicted. Hopefully, this helps people not be afraid to come and see us. You won’t be thrown in jail. Your payment plan can just be telling me you don’t have any money right now and we can defer it. You can still come and do that. They just need to stay in contact with me. It’s all about communication.”
Expanding Book-and-Release processes was a “Responsive Strategy” identified by the Vera Institute for Justice’s Report to address case processing issues. The Case Processing Subcommittee is tasked with tackling the challenge of reducing case processing delays, decreasing the total time to case resolution, and increasing efficiency in court operations and docket management.
"With bold projects like MAPS 4, innovative judges solving problems, and CJAC members and partners leveraging their resources in their fields of influence, the process of collaboration and problem-solving will further expand justice in Oklahoma County," the report concludes. "CJAC members and partners must be careful to not grow weary in well-doing and keep pushing the momentum to new positive results."