Governor Stitt Celebrates Launch of MODERN Justice Task Force
Today, Governor Kevin Stitt announced the launch of the MODERN (Modernized Operations through Data and Evidence-based Restoration Now) Justice Task Force to conduct a first-of-its-kind intensive review of Oklahoma’s justice system by identifying evidence-based strategies to reduce crime and recidivism, enhance public safety, and increase opportunities for all Oklahomans.
“Today, we’re taking concrete steps towards a safer, smarter, and more efficient justice system in Oklahoma,” said Governor Stitt. “With all three branches of government working together, we’re demonstrating to all four million Oklahomans the state’s commitment to strengthening public safety while ensuring our justice system works fairly and efficiently.”
The launch of the MODERN Justice Task Force comes after Governor Stitt, Pro Tem Greg Treat, Speaker Charles McCall, and the Administrative Director of the Administrative Office of the Courts Jari Askins jointly requested facilitative and administrative support from the Crime and Justice (CJI) Institute and the Public Safety Performance Project under the Justice Reinvestment Initiative in September 2022.
“After years of focusing on statewide efforts, we’ve realized the extent of the strain our jails and sheriffs are facing, and understand that reforms are needed. By investing time and energy through the Task Force process, we can be smart about local criminal justice in ways that will ensure we are being right on crime, while at the same time providing help to those who need it,” said Speaker McCall. “Importantly, this will be a state and local led effort based on policy ideas generated by Oklahomans for Oklahomans. The citizens of our state should rest assured that their safety and security is our number one priority, and this Task Force will make sure that important factor is taken into account when weighing any criminal justice reforms they may recommend.”
Over the next six months, with assistance from the Justice Reinvestment Initiative, the MODERN Justice Task Force will examine data from jails across Oklahoma and evaluate strategies other states have implemented to protect public safety while shifting resources toward more cost-effective solutions. The Task Force will gather input from various stakeholders, including law enforcement officials, county leadership, behavioral health services, victims and survivors of crime, and formerly incarcerated individuals.
“Any focus we have must keep crime victims in mind, ensure violent criminals stay behind bars while finding ways to get addicts and people who are mentally ill the help they need before breaking the law,” said Pro Tem Treat. “There are many avenues to explore in this space but the policy needs to be attainable, affordable, and sustainable in the long term. I look forward to seeing the Task Force’s recommendations to increase efficiency and maximize the return on taxpayers’ public safety investment.”
After completing its review, the MODERN Justice Task Force will provide recommendations to the Legislature for their consideration during the 2024 legislative session, which begins next February.
“Data gathered for and studied by this Task Force is vital for all stakeholders to understand if Oklahoma is to remove obstacles in the criminal justice system. The Administrative Office of the Courts is grateful for the opportunity to participate and to support efforts that will improve access to justice for all citizens,” said Administrative Director of the Courts Jari Askins.
The MODERN Justice Task Force will be comprised of:
- The Secretary of Public Safety or designee
- The Speaker of the Oklahoma House of Representatives or designee
- The President Pro Tempore of the Oklahoma Senate or designee
- A victim advocate
- The Commissioner for the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services or designee
- A District Attorney for a county or district with a population of five hundred thousand (500,000) or less as determined by the latest Federal Decennial Census, to be selected by the Speaker of the Oklahoma House of Representatives
- The Administrative Director of the Administrative Office of the Courts or designee
- A sheriff of a county with a population of five hundred thousand (500,000) or more as determined by the latest Federal Decennial Census, to be selected by the President Pro Tempore of the Oklahoma Senate
- A public defender selected by the Administrative Director of the Courts
- A retired district judge, as selected by the Presiding Judge of the Court of Criminal Appeals
- Someone with demonstrated knowledge of successful diversion programs, with a specific emphasis on programs in rural areas, to be selected by the Secretary of Public Safety
Executive Order 2023-19 can be found here.