This letter is by Christopher Johnston, a military veteran and activist in Oklahoma County.
Dear Oklahoma County Criminal Justice Authority,
Our county jail has numerous civil rights violations on record attached to it and they are counting. It is overcrowded for one reason and I think I know the answer to that.
I recommend that all minor offenders or nonviolent offenders be released immediately. Now, that does not mean that people get off without paying their debt to society. However, stealing or not being able to pay your tickets should not be a death sentence or a sentence of beatings or other forms of abuse that seem to be ritualistic amongst the culture of those who work in that jail. Bed bugs, roaches, rats, and the filth of abusers wearing a badge should not be the punishment you receive because you are simply poor.
So, as a person analyzing this problem, I see a way that we can make progress happen. Release people so that they can work off their fines through community service. Activities like trash pickup, painting homes, fixing roads, learning valuable working skills, and training that can rehabilitate.
It does not make fiscal sense to lock up someone over a $200 fine for many months costing the taxpayers thousands over a small fine as an example. Often those who are punished are punished for the crime of poverty and systemic racism. We also have an institution that is housed within our jail that violates humane and constitutional rights daily. That institution’s name is Immigration Customs Enforcement or commonly called “ICE”.
An institution that by most optics racially profiles, have been reported that they were raping children at the border, sterilizing women, locking families in cages, etc. The list of disgusting inhumane treatment goes on. And it does not matter whether they are a federal agency or not wrong is wrong. Our immigrant family has rights under our constitution.
The last part of Section 1 of the 14th Amendment states “…nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.
That section clearly states that a person has equal protection of the laws. Meaning a person which literally means according to all dictionaries “A human being regarded as an individual.” So, immigrants that go through our system through non-legal means are still protected and we are allowing this institution to break the law daily with impunity. Which means they are never held with any sort of accountability.
Our country is a country of law and order! And you cannot have those two things without justice. So, are we a country of laws or a country that is lawless? Do we really mean that Oklahoma is a place that is for the righteous or is that a lie? Is our justice system about justice or is that false propaganda? Propaganda that only is used to keep the rich and powerful on top? What is the truth?
We have an opportunity to set the record straight once and for all by bringing this controversial but necessary topic before public comment and to vote on. We have an opportunity to make history in the right way.
We can make a stand against inhumane treatment in this state. We do not need to waste any more time on this issue. You are either for ICE staying in the jail or for the removal of them from this jail. Let’s stop wasting time and money. Let’s be brave.
I believe that every person is capable of good and I have said this to you all almost every time I have spoken to you.
I implore you all to vote ICE out immediately and with a realistic timeline. We have sent people to the moon, found a vaccine for COVID, passed landmark civil rights bills, etc. We are capable of kicking ICE out and making it happen with a quick timeline.
The Oklahoma Standard needs to apply to everyone in this state. The people often reflect that standard which is caring, compassionate, and hard-working. However, many of our politicians often are not those things. They are obstructionists, lazy, and cowards. So, let’s change this. Let’s do the right thing and vote them out immediately.
In conclusion, even if you believe morally that ICE should stay in the jail you all are smart enough to know that what they are doing is illegal and should be removed from our jail.
Most of you are attorneys and have a collegiate reading level so you can read the law and critically think. I believe you all can do the right thing and I do hope you all take me up on my offer that I continue to bring up about sitting down with me and other activists to help as a community create solutions to cure our societal ills.
We can not play politics anymore on human suffering in this jail from citizens or our immigrant family. Please be brave and let’s clean up this jail.
I hope that these problems can be fixed by peaceful democratic solutions versus numerous lawsuits that will happen if ICE remains there or any continued suffering by people continues to exists.
The clock is ticking and about to strike 12. So be brave and make our jail comply with the law and morality. Thank you for reading this.
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