Thursday, September 14, 2017
Overcrowding in Oklahoma County Detention Center, where jail officials incarcerate people awaiting trial and hold others serving short sentences, has long been a problem. About 15 years ago, the U.S. Department of Justice began its investigation of jail conditions for civil rights violations. Ever since, the detention center, more commonly referred to as the jail, has come under immense public scrutiny surrounding its overcrowded conditions, inmate-on-inmate violence and facility challenges.
Two years ago, when the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber assembled a task force of business leaders, local government officials and law enforcement stakeholders, a new approach emerged for addressing the issues plaguing the jail. The Greater Oklahoma City Chamber Criminal Justice Task Force would devote its time to studying the systematic issues afflicting the local criminal justice system, as the jail crisis would not be solved by only building a new jail. With the aid of the Vera Institute of Justice, a nonprofit organization focused on criminal justice policy and practice reforms, the task force issued six recommendations after a year of study. One way to reform the criminal justice system would be to create the Oklahoma County Criminal Justice Advisory Council, a council staffed with representatives from four government entities and four community representatives providing data-driven recommendations to reduce the jail population and recidivism and increase community and public safety.
Next week, the 19-member advisory council will meet for the first time. The representatives from the City of Oklahoma City, City of Midwest City, City of Edmond and Oklahoma County as well as law enforcement, judicial members and a mental health official will take “a major step in beginning to put real focus on revamping the criminal justice system in Oklahoma County,” according to Roy Williams, CEO/president of the Greater OKC Chamber and council member.