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Oklahoma Watch

Oklahoma Watch is a non-profit organization that produces in-depth and investigative journalism on important public-policy issues facing the state. Oklahoma Watch is non-partisan and strives to be balanced, fair, accurate and comprehensive. The reporting project collaborates on occasion with other news outlets. Topics of particular interest include poverty, education, health care, the young and the old, and the disadvantaged.

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graph of the results of the point-in-time homeless count
Oklahoma Watch

Nearly 4,400 homeless Oklahomans were identified during the 2013 statewide count of homeless people, reflecting a slight decrease over two years ago, according to numbers released this week by state officials.

The statewide Point-in-time Homeless Count, which is conducted in January and mandated by the federal government every two years, seeks to identify each state’s homeless population. Some cities, including Oklahoma City and Tulsa, also do homeless counts in other years, but the statewide count is biennial.

It’s well known that college tuition and student debt rose steeply in Oklahoma over the past decade. But less familiar is how that trend has played out at individual colleges and types of schools.

The interactive graphic above adds clarity to the picture.

In the chart, each circle represents a school, is sized by enrollment and is colored by type of college – public, nonprofit or for-profit.

Warren Vieth / Oklahoma Watch

In just six weeks, nearly one in 10 Oklahomans will be able to buy subsidized health policies from private insurance companies through a new online marketplace set up by the federal government.

Many more who don’t qualify for the subsidies will still be able to shop on the marketplace and obtain coverage, even if they’ve been turned down in the past for pre-existing conditions.

But it won’t be simple. Several companies will offer policies, with different levels of coverage. Tax credits will be available for people falling within certain income ranges. Many people will need one-on-one assistance to navigate the registration process.

Oklahoma’s arrest rate for marijuana possession is slightly above the national rate, and arrest rates vary considerably among counties, according to an Oklahoma Watch analysis of 10 years’ worth of FBI data.

Click on a button to see a county’s rate of arrests for marijuana possession. Each button is placed on a county seat. The red buttons denote the counties with the highest rates.

State Leaders, Workers Enjoy Ample Health Benefits

Aug 6, 2013
Oklahoma Capitol Building
ana branca / Flickr

When Gov. Mary Fallin and Lt. Gov. Todd Lamb go see their primary-care doctors, they pay $30 out of pocket. Their prescriptions cost $10 if they get generics, more if they get name-brand drugs.

Oklahoma taxpayers pick up the entire cost of their insurance premiums, which total $18,113 per year for each of their families.

In fact, the health allowance they receive from the state totals $19,717 a year. They can use the surplus to pay for other state benefits or roll it into their take-home pay.

Oklahoma Prison Growth
Oklahoma Watch

At the July Oklahoma Department of Corrections board meeting, officials announced the approval of moving 310 more Oklahoma inmates to the Cimarron Correctional Facility, a private prison in Cushing.

The move was just the latest in a recent shift of state inmates to three private prisons in Oklahoma. Since July 2008, the number of Oklahoma inmates in private prisons has grown by 32 percent, from 4,264 to 5,625 in July 2013.

State Penitentiary Fades As Oklahoma Shifts Inmates To Private Prisons

Jul 29, 2013
Clifton Adcock / Oklahoma Watch

The Oklahoma State Penitentiary in McAlester, the oldest prison in the state, has seen its inmate population fall to less than half of what it was five years ago as officials move hundreds of the state’s most dangerous convicts to private prisons.

The decline has been so steep that some state lawmakers, corrections guards and others wonder if “Big Mac,” as it is called, will become home to only Death Row and the execution chamber, or if the prison will eventually be closed.

Oklahoma Watch

Oklahoma continues to imprison people at one of the highest rates in the nation, ranking fourth in a newly released report from the federal Bureau of Justice Statistics.

Oklahoma, which has seen prison populations increase steadily over the past several decades, incarcerated 648 residents per 100,000 population in 2012, according to the study released Thursday by the bureau, part of the U.S. Department of Justice. That’s up 2.5 percent, an increase from 632 in 2011.

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