Oklahoma Suffers More From Shutdown Than Any Other State

As reported here, Oklahoma is among the poorest states in the Union, one of the unhealthiest, with a reliance on federally funded programs that could go unserved during the shutdown. This may prove to be lethal for state residents that are in danger of federal services ending during the shutdown. It’s time for the Oklahoma congressional delegation to reopen the unprecedented shutdown of the government. This isn’t about politics or the immorality of a wall on the southern border. This is about morality of putting innocent federal workers out of work like pawns in a cruel game over power. This isn’t funny anymore and living under a dysfunctional government is like kicking a person when they are already down.

State farmers, TSA agents, food inspectors and Indian health service employees are either furloughed or working without getting paid during the longest shutdown in U.S. history. Polls show little support for the shutdown or for the wall. Few believe there is a crisis and most respondents blame Trump and republicans.

United States Senators Jim Inhofe and James Lankford have been loyal to the republican party and President Donald Trump. However, the first loyalties should be to the American people and more specifically the citizens of Oklahoma. Party politics have not helped Oklahomans and being at the bottom of every significant socio-economic scale should have their attention. Hopefully, their powerful voices can lead to a reopening of the government.

Oklahoma’s United States of House of Representatives are the voice of districts and they are to represent state values in the Nation’s Capitol. Like Oklahoma’s United States Senator’s, congressmen have been the most loyal supporters of Trump; but now that support comes at the expense of Oklahomans. Poor and hurting Oklahomans should not pay the price of spoiled politicians who are cashing their federal paychecks while thousands of their constituents go without pay. Open the government!

TU Grad To Fund Endowment For African American Students

The University of Tulsa (TU) has announced the endowment for scholarships to 10 African American students annually towards their goal of making the quality education found at TU more accessible to students under represented at the prestigious university. The $5 million endowment comes from TU Board of Trustee Sue Ann Arnall. The funds come from the Arnall Family Foundation. Arnall is an attorney and former TU student who received her bachelor’s and law degree from the state’s top academic university.

The scholarships will be offered to non-athletic program African American students seeking undergraduate studies and those attending the TU School of Law. The Arnall Family Foundation supports efforts to help at-risk children in Oklahoma, criminal justice reform and animal welfare.

This is great news for the fortunate students who stand to benefit from the generous award. High praise for the University of Tulsa and Sue Ann Arnall for this wonderful gift to help some achieve their dream of a high-quality higher education.

Misdemeanor Crimes Cause Problems For The Poor And The Poorly Represented

While most believe a misdemeanor crime is minor and pales in comparison to the serious nature of a felony, they would be sorely wrong. The justice system at every level has been unfairly funding the courts, Sheriff’s department and jails off misdemeanor offenses. Minor infractions land people in jail for mistakes like not wearing a seatbelt, and other small crimes. Inability to pay only adds to mounting fines. There exists plenty of evidence as well that so-called justice is doled out to people of color in disturbing high numbers. Today the evidence of the misuse of the justice system to take advantage of misdemeanors has caught the attention of criminal reform experts and a newly minted panel examining the problem.

Essentially, the misdemeanor is purposely used to punish those least able to pay for minor crimes. That is insidious. Hopefully the renewed examination will expose this system for what it is. The challenge is that the fines are already present by local governments. The governments will have to pay for court and law enforcement from other means. It means a hike in property taxes or even sales tax. That will hurt but the unbelievable and crushing effect of the justice system attacking the most vulnerable is even more painful.

One of the leading experts on the justice system is Alexandra Natapoff, a professor of law at the University of California who has revealed deep problems in the justice system. Her important book titled “Snitching: Criminal Informants and the Erosion of American Justice” showed how the use of informants allowed thousands of guilty criminals onto the street in exchange for information. Now she has written “Punishment Without Crime: How Our Massive Misdemeanor System Traps the Innocent and Makes America Unequal.”  In this book she details the horrible ways misdemeanors are used to torment and punish in unequal ways. Natapoff reports that over 10 million cases are filed yearly. This is a much greater number than the number of felonies doled out. The speed and harshness of petty crimes are part of Natapoff’s problem with misdemeanors. These small crimes make-up 80 percent of all state dockets.

She recommends a reform of the system. Everything from decriminalization of many crimes and the use of community service. She wants to reduce the flow of low-level arrests that fill the misdemeanor pipeline, or in other words, stop the formal and informal quota system many police departments must hit to keep funding going. Eliminate money bail and bail schedules for low-level offenders. Bail has become regressive and creates an unconstitutional effect. There needs to be a formal screening and dismissal of nuisance cases or wrongfully charged cases. Enforce the constitutional right to counsel and due process. The sixth amendment ensures an attorney will be made available to offer a defense. This is routinely violated at many levels right now with pressure from judges and district attorneys.

Natapoff cites some disturbing instances in her book of how broken the system is. In a Maryland misdemeanor court, the judge created a rule of evidence to help the prosecution. When the defense attorney objected the judge threatened her with contempt.  In another case, a public defender in Washington state with a caseload of 250 misdemeanor cases each month was expected to force her clients to plead guilty to keep the system going. Her request for more time to properly represent her client got her fired. Incredibly, in a lower court in Florence, South Carolina, there are no prosecuting officials. There, the police act simultaneously as the prosecutor and the witness. Deals must be worked out with the same officer who arrested the offender. And it goes on and on. Tulsa citizens are studying the problem here in the hopes of reversing a problem that produced a federal lawsuit that claimed the county operates an unconstitutional wealth-based detention scheme. The suit was dismissed but the problem persists.

The group is informal, and their recommendations do not have to be considered but they sure should.

 

 

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