At the heart of the progress being made on justice reform in Oklahoma County has been the business community. It was the business community, through the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber, that created the special task force that led to the VERA Institute report and recommendations on changes that were necessary and timely for the county’s justice system.
The VERA Institute report led to the governments of Oklahoma County, Oklahoma City, Edmond and Midwest City recognizing the need for the Oklahoma County Criminal Justice Advisory Council to help the county create a more fair and effective justice system.
Such early leadership continues to be evident, as illustrated by the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber’s Board of Advisors' interest and turnout for a recent tour of the Oklahoma County jail.
“As more executives go on the jail tour, they will see for themselves the extreme challenges with the jail conditions in our county,” said Timothy Tardibono, executive director of the Oklahoma County Criminal Justice Advisory Council. “This new awareness confirms that change must occur and will lead to better ideas and solutions than have ever been discussed around this topic before in our county. Business leaders in our community recognize that our city and county’s renaissance can be enjoyed by all our neighbors, even those needing second chances and those needing help overcoming their addictions.“
ACCORDING TO TARDIBONO, BUSINESS LEADERS SEE THESE PROBLEMS IN THEIR WORKFORCE EVERY DAY AND WANT GOVERNMENT LEADERS TO JOIN THEM IN CREATING BETTER SOLUTIONS FOR THE JUSTICE SYSTEM IN OKLAHOMA COUNTY.
“Their ability to educate city and county leaders can only increase as they tour the jail for themselves and feel the burden of the problem coupled with the hope of a better day for our community,” he added.
“I'd heard how inadequate the facility was, but it was powerful to see the logistical nightmares created by poor planning for the staff,” said Lee Copeland, communications manager, professional and graduate studies, Southern Nazarene University. “Being locked in a cramped, over-crowded cell for days on end surely makes the jobs of our jail staff more difficult and seems to work counter to any desire to work toward rehabilitation or resolving the underlying issues that may have led to an inmates entry into the legal system. It was helpful to understand that this isn't simply just about the physical space at the jail, this is also about the policies and processes within our legal system that must be reformed as well. While I understand that this is an infinitely complex problem--it is nonetheless one that we must own and resolve.”
“We are sending people to jail who have addictions and then sending them out with no pipeline to organizations that can help further treat the problem.”
“To be in the space and hear from the staff, to feel the tightness of the space, to ‘feel’ the smell - you cannot always express those things through video or the written word,” said Melanie Anthony, vice president of development and community engagement for PivotOK. “I liked hearing from staff saying how they want better for the inmates. The difficulty the inmates face also makes it very difficult on staff. When the inmates can have more space, more time outside of their cells, it lowers anxieties, tensions, etc. To hear that fees and charges come from the state level shows a disconnect. While I have an understanding of the system and challenges, being in that space just added an even deeper understanding, resolve and commitment to fight for justice reform for those in central Oklahoma and across our state.” Read more at VeloCITY OKC