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OKLAHOMA CITY (Free Press) — The Oklahoma County Criminal Justice Advisory Council (CJAC) met on Thursday afternoon for their first monthly meeting in person since the early days of the pandemic.

During the subdued meeting, the Council heard presentations on the ReMerge program, a facilities subcommittee, Mental Health issues, a legislative update from Carrie Slatton-Hodges, and an update on the state of the Oklahoma County Detention Center (Jail) from Trust CEO Greg Williams.

The body was also informed about the potential growth for Oklahoma County Commissioner Brian Maughan’s SHINE Program.

Budget

The first order of business on the CJAC agenda Thursday afternoon was the consent docket. At meetings of most public bodies, the consent docket (or consent agenda) is a list of minor pro-forma business items that are inconsequential enough to be voted through as one item.

At CJAC’s Thursday meeting, however, the body was called to vote on a consent docket that included minutes of the previous meeting, a report on expenditures and financials, and, to the surprise of at least one reporter, the entire proposed FY 2022 budget for the organization.

SHINE

Included in this year’s budget is a $12,000 allocation to the SHINE Program.

SHINE, which stands for Start Helping Impacted Neighborhoods Everywhere, was founded by District 2 County Commissioner Brian Maughan as a means of alternative sentencing for low-level offenders. SHINE has been a “community service” option for Oklahoma County district judges, prosecutors, and defense attorneys to help clients avoid stays in Jail.

According to Maughan, this year will see a much larger investment in SHINE in Oklahoma County. 

At Thursday’s meeting of the County Budget Board, which consists of all elected county officials, the County voted to give SHINE $200,000 for operations this year. Added to that is money from Del City, CJAC, and potentially from the City of Oklahoma City. 

Maughan said that the additional funding will allow the program to become a free-standing county program instead of being under the auspices of Maughan’s office.

ReMerge

Jenna Morey, Executive Director of ReMerge, gave a presentation about the popular local social service organization.

Morey explained that this year will be the 10th anniversary of ReMerge. The organization serves mothers with minor children. Mothers who are facing non-violent felonies and who have a chance of being reunited with their children are eligible for the program.

ReMerge serves 50 women at any given point, and approximately 75 women each year.

CJAC
Some of leadership of the Oklahoma County Criminal Justice Advisory Committee listen to a report. (BRETT DICKERSON/Okla City Free Press)

Morey said that participants have a recidivism rate of 4%, compared to a 20% rate for similar populations released straight from Department of Corrections custody.

ReMerge is currently ramping up the workforce readiness piece of their program. They have recently started a bakery program called Catalyst Cookies, whereby they can work on some job skills with participants. Morey brought cookies from Catalyst for members of CJAC and for attendees of the meeting.

Morey also said that Catalyst has recently launched “take and bake” frozen cookie dough.

Facilities Subcommittee

Dan Straughan, a member of CJAC and Executive Director of the Homeless Alliance, gave a brief presentation on progress from the Jail Facilities subcommittee.

Straughan said that the members of the subcommittee have visited with several experts. He also said that participation on the subcommittee has been great and insightful.

The subcommittee has created an RFP for a consultant, as is de rigueur in government business. Solicitation for the RFP is due on May 26, so they hope to have a consultant in place by summer.

This consultant will help the small group recognize if rehabilitation for the current Jail building is more effective than building a new facility.

In the meantime, Oklahoma County will continue to fund updates such as new locks and better water handling to the crumbling and, reportedly, deadly facility.

Mental Health

Carrie Slatton-Hodges, Commissioner of the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services, talked to the Council about advances and opportunities surrounding mental health treatment and other issues in Oklahoma.

The greatest change in legislation that mental health advocates saw in this session was the passage of a new law regarding mental health transport. Previously the state law required any mental health transport to be conducted by law enforcement personnel. The new change in law states that if transport to a facility or bed will take more than half an hour, the transport can be done by a separate body.

Slatton-Hodges said that the Department has created an RFP that will be released soon. A contractor will be chosen for the job. This has been already funded by the state.

She also said that $7.5 million has been earmarked for increasing crisis centers and mental health urgent cares.

In July 2022, a new mental health crisis hotline will be rolled out statewide. At that point, any resident will be able to dial 988 for mental health crisis services, instead of being connected with potentially dangerous interactions with police.

Jail Operations

Newly elected Chair of the Jail Trust, former City Manager Jim Couch, introduced Jail CEO Greg Williams to give an update on Jail operations.

Williams’s remarks were much the same as his report at Monday’s Jail Trust.

Thursday’s morning population count was in keeping with recent counts. 1493 detainees were counted, which included 120 people awaiting transport to Department of Corrections custody. Williams said approximately 26 of those were transferred in the afternoon before the meeting.

Williams reiterated that the Jail currently has no positive COVID-19 cases, and nobody reporting symptoms of the same.

CJAC will meet again on June 17 at 3:00 p.m. That meeting will also be in person, but the location has not been settled.

Last Updated May 20, 2021, 10:45 PM by Brett Dickerson – Editor