Governor Stitt Applauds MODERN Justice Task Force
Today, Governor Kevin Stitt announced the receipt of the highly anticipated Modernized Operations through Data and Evidence-based Restoration Now (MODERN) Justice Task Force report. The culmination of months of dedicated work by a diverse group of stakeholders, the report is a first-of-its-kind intensive review of Oklahoma’s jails and provides 15 policy recommendations to address public safety, jail populations, recidivism, and cost-effectiveness across Oklahoma. A copy of the full report can be found here.
"I'm grateful to the Task Force members for their diligent efforts in delivering this insightful report," stated Governor Stitt. "Modernizing our justice system is a complex issue, and careful consideration of different perspectives is crucial. We are committed to thoroughly reviewing these recommendations and working collaboratively to find solutions that benefit all Oklahomans."
Chair of the MODERN Justice Task Force, Tricia Everest, celebrated Oklahoma's renewed approach to public safety: “Thanks to Governor Stitt’s vision and the dedication from my colleagues on the Task Force, Oklahoma will continue to lead the nation. Our justice system as we know it is unsustainable. The era of expecting our correctional officers and law enforcement to be mental health professionals must end. We recognize there’s a place for those who are struggling with mental health, and it’s not in jail. We’ll employ new strategies, such as centralizing our approach to sentencing and arresting fewer, yet smarter, to ensure fairness across the board while modernizing Oklahoma's approach to criminal justice.”
Administrative Director of the Courts Jari Askins, a member of the Task Force, highlighted the valuable insights contributed by Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services’ former Commissioner Slatton-Hodges and a victim advocate in shaping the Task Force’s robust, holistic recommendations: "We were fortunate to have the expertise of fierce advocates for mental health and substance abuse services and for those who are victims of crime to supplement the expertise of other Task Force members with experience in the courts and jail systems. Their unique perspectives helped to shape the recommendations in a way that will ensure better outcomes for those who may need intervention over incarceration and for Oklahomans who are impacted by crime.”
The MODERN Justice Task Force was assembled to understand and address the drivers of local jail populations and associated growing costs in Oklahoma. It is composed of 11 stakeholders including the Secretary of Public Safety, the judiciary, a defense attorney, a formerly incarcerated individual, a victim advocate, and members of law enforcement. Notably, the law enforcement members – one representing rural areas and one representing urban areas – as well as two district attorneys, ensured a balanced perspective on the system. The Task Force conducted its rigorous review of Oklahoma’s jail system by using a sample of jail data from six agencies across the state, evaluating current policies and programs, discussing best practices and models from other states, and engaging in detailed policy discussions.
A nonpartisan review of the comprehensive and actionable report is the first step. Next, state leaders will engage in thoughtful dialogue with the Task Force and all stakeholders to review, consider, and implement the recommended policy changes.
The Task Force was part of a statewide effort to address Oklahoma’s growing jail populations and above-average incarceration rate through the Justice Reinvestment Initiative (JRI), a public-private partnership of the U.S. Bureau of Justice Assistance and the Pew Charitable Trusts. Through JRI, the Task Force also received technical assistance from the Crime and Justice Institute.