The Oklahoma County Criminal Justice Advisory Council (CJAC) held its monthly meeting on Thursday afternoon to discuss recent criminal justice reform efforts and make recommendations to the Jail Trust on CARES Act funds spending.
The Council, chaired by Clay Bennett, consists of law enforcement agencies and city and county officials, as well as other stakeholders from non-profit organizations in Oklahoma County.
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Notably, Commissioner Kevin Calvey, a member of CJAC, was chosen to represent the BoCC on the Trust.
Calvey has since filed suit on behalf of himself and others against the Jail Trust, of which he is a member. In Thursday’s CJAC meeting, no mention was made of Calvey’s suit or the potential conflict of interest it presents.
Spending CARES funds
The Advisory Council took on orders of business related to better data tracking for the Jail, as well as expanding the current system of video conferencing for arrangements and some other court appearances.
A vote was passed to recommend that the Jail Trust spend approximately $1.5 million on the earlier mentioned video-conference system. This will enable jail staff to keep persons charged with crimes inside the jail instead of transporting them to the courthouse for appointments.
While this comes under the heading of “CARES spending,” it can also be seen as a further denial of people imprisoned from leaving the jail to see natural light for the short drive to the courthouse. It also prevents persons who are incarcerated from conferring with counsel privately during their hearings.
New data collection efforts do come with the promise of tracking demographic details of persons incarcerated at the jail, as well as notable information such as time between arrest and being arraigned and time between arraignment and entrance to diversion programs.
Public Defender Bob Ravitz pointed out that these are data points the VERA Project encouraged the county to collect.
Readers may remember that CJAC spearheaded the effort to empanel what is now the Oklahoma County Criminal Justice Authority, which is more commonly and accurately known as the Jail Trust.
When the Jail Trust was formed by the Oklahoma County Board of County Commissioners (BoCC), it was decided that the Trust would include one County Commissioner, the Sheriff, an appointee from each County Commissioner, and four members of the community. Each of those community members were recommended by CJAC and subsequently empaneled by the BoCC.
While CJAC has no deciding power for the Trust or the BoCC, they do have the power of being composed of some of the most powerful business, local government, and nonprofit entities in the County.
The group’s clerk is Oklahoma City Clerk Frances Kersey, who ably handles the nuts and bolts of their meetings. The group includes City Manager Craig Freeman, Police Chief Wade Gourly, District Attorney David Prater, and other “stakeholders.”
While CJAC typically meets on the third Thursday of each month, November’s meeting is planned for the 12th of the month in order to meet in person at the Oklahoma City Convention Center.
The Jail Trust will meet on Monday, October 19.
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