Local government has taken another step to improve cooperation between law enforcement and conditions in the Oklahoma County Jail.
The Oklahoma City Council voted on Tuesday to approve the creation of the Oklahoma County Criminal Justice Advisory Council through an agreement between Oklahoma City, Oklahoma County, Edmond and Midwest City. According to city documents, the new council will focus on increasing efficiency and improving cooperation between police departments, courts and district attorneys’ offices.
The council will address the recommendations of the nonprofit Vera Institute, which released a report last year in collaboration with the Oklahoma County Criminal Justice Reform Task Force. To reduce the county jail admissions and recidivism rates, the report recommended improving data collection and analysis to understand the jail’s population, avoiding booking people for low-level offenses and improving addiction and mental health treatment, among other measures.
The Greater Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce created the task force in 2015 to evaluate the local criminal justice system and the overcrowded county jail. Many of the task force’s members will also serve on the Criminal Justice Advisory Council, which is intended to carry out the recommendations of the task force, according to Oklahoma City officials.
Members of the council will include the Oklahoma County sheriff, district attorney, public defender and court clerk; the city managers of Oklahoma City, Edmond and Midwest City; the Oklahoma City police chief; and community representatives to be designated by a vote of the council.
MT Berry, an assistant city manager for Oklahoma City, said the ultimate goal of the council is to reduce the number of people in the Oklahoma County Jail. He said reducing inefficiencies and improving communication between departments will be essential to achieving that goal.
“The Oklahoma City Police Department system doesn’t talk to the county jail system. The county jail system doesn’t talk to the DA’s office,” Berry said.
Before the council can be created, the county, Edmond and Midwest City still need to approve the interlocal agreement.
The Oklahoma County Jail has come under fire in recent years for overcrowding, poorly maintained facilities and inmate deaths.
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