History shows future change isn’t possible without community engagement

ARDMORE –  Oklahomans for Criminal Justice Reform (OCJR) and Together Oklahoma will be holding an in-person event November 1st, 2022 at 6:30P.M. to highlight the need for community members to spur future criminal justice reform efforts in Oklahoma. This event will take place in Ardmore at Southern Tech — 2610 Sam Noble Parkway — in Conference Room B. There will also be a livestream on Together Oklahoma and OCJR’s YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter channels. 

At the end of 2016, Oklahoma had the highest incarceration rate in the country, with Oklahomans 65% more likely to be in jail or prison than someone who lived in another state. Recognizing that these high rates of incarceration were not making Oklahoma safer, more just, or more productive, voters and policymakers started to make long overdue changes to the criminal justice system. 

These changes began with citizen-led ballot initiatives, State Question 780 and SQ781. These and other bipartisan reforms advanced policy changes that have reduced the prison population by more than 20% and helped thousands of Oklahomans reunite with their families and contribute to their communities. Even after all this progress, Oklahoma still has the third-highest overall imprisonment rate and the second-highest women’s imprisonment rate in the country. 

Incarceration is not only an urban phenomenon. In fact, according to the data, on a per capita basis, our most rural counties often lock up the most people in jail and send the most people to prison. Today, the highest rates of prison admissions are in rural counties, and pretrial detention continues to increase in smaller counties even as it is on the decline in larger counties. Rural counties are in dire need of resources and stakeholders to fight for their best interest. While bigger cities have non-profits and stakeholders to pick up the slack, rural counties are left behind. 

Oklahoma has made progress on criminal justice reform, but there is still more work to do. Progress is possible. Voters and policymakers have taken important first steps, but more reforms are needed to strengthen Oklahoma’s economy, communities, and families. Join us as we detail how volunteers and advocates can get involved in their own local communities to demand better for our state. 

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Oklahomans for Criminal Justice Reform is a 501(c)3 nonprofit whose mission is to serve as a catalyst for systemic change in Oklahoma’s criminal legal system to promote just and appropriate accountability while reducing mass incarceration and its long-term harm to families. For more information, visit our website.

Together Oklahoma is a nonpartisan coalition of citizens working together to secure a robust future for our state. We are a grassroots education and advocacy group connecting Oklahoma values to state budget priorities. Together OK is primarily staffed and funded by the Oklahoma Policy Institute, a non-profit, non-partisan Oklahoma think tank.

Published by Dave Hamby

David Hamby has more than 25 years of experience as an award-winning communicator, including overseeing communication programs for Oklahoma higher education institutions and other organizations. Before joining OK Policy, he was director of public relations for Rogers State University where he managed the school’s external communication programs and served as a member of the president’s leadership team. He served in a similar communications role for five years at the University of Tulsa. He also has worked in communications roles at Oklahoma State University and the Fort Smith Chamber of Commerce in Arkansas. He joined OK Policy in October 2019.