Articles written by Keaton Ross

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Private-public court debt collection scheme continues to profit

When Aberdeen Enterprizes II threatened to have her arrested over $1,200 in outstanding court fines and fees, Kendy Killman became a prisoner in her own home. The mother of eight feared being arrested unexpectedly, so she avoided unnecessary trips...


Inmate deaths raise questions about temperatures in Oklahoma prisons

During the early morning count on Saturday, Aug. 26, state corrections officers found Vincent Willis dead in his cell at the Dick Conner Correctional Center in Hominy. The 59-year-old prisoner died...


Oklahoma lawmakers weigh restrictions on ranked-choice voting

From Alaska to New York City, ranked-choice voting has gained traction in a handful of states and dozens of municipalities. A coalition of voter advocacy groups and some elected officials, including Rep. Mickey Dollens, D-Oklahoma City, and...


Oklahoma inches closer to eliminating private prisons

Change is coming to a southeast Oklahoma private prison plagued with violence and staffing shortages, but advocates for corrections staff and prisoners say further efforts are needed to improve conditions. The Oklahoma Department of Corrections will...


Governor, legislative leaders strike 'monumental' public education funding deal

After months of wrangling and the week-long efforts of mediation by a retired Oklahoma Supreme Court justice, the state’s GOP leaders announced what they called a “monumental” education funding package on Monday. The $785 million in additional... Full story


Oklahoma news deserts: Data shows voting sagged in 'orphan counties'

Tucked away in the southeast corner of the state, McCurtain County residents receive television news from Shreveport, Louisiana. Shreveport is a slightly closer drive than Oklahoma City or Tulsa, and its stations rarely delve into Oklahoma politics....


Looking ahead to the 2023 legislative session

With holiday festivities all but wrapped up, it's time to shift focus toward what lies ahead in 2023. Bill filing is still underway, with the legislature facing a Jan. 19 deadline to introduce bills... Full story

 By Keaton Ross    Regional    April 10, 2022

How a proposed felony classification system would affect justice in Oklahoma

A 1,000-page proposal to overhaul Oklahoma’s criminal code and establish a felony classification system is progressing in the legislature. Senate Bill 1646 by Sen. Dave Rader, R-Tulsa, cleared the upper chamber by a 35-12 vote in late March. It’s...

 By Keaton Ross    Regional    April 3, 2022

Many Oklahoma jails struggle to meet health and safety standards

As Covid-19 outbreaks emerged throughout Oklahoma’s prison system in September 2020, the Hughes County Jail opted not to give masks to detainees. Inside the Bryan County Jail, inspected on March 10, 2020, a state health department employee found ro...

 By Keaton Ross    Regional    April 1, 2022

Many Oklahoma jails struggle to meet health and safety standards

As Covid-19 outbreaks emerged throughout Oklahoma’s prison system in September 2020, the Hughes County Jail opted not to give masks to detainees. Inside the Bryan County Jail, inspected on March 10, 2020, a state health department employee found ro...

 By Keaton Ross    Regional    March 13, 2022

Expungement process in Oklahoma is long and expensive; legislature could change that.

Hundreds of people lined up outside the Urban League of Greater Oklahoma City last August in 90-degree heat, hoping for a fresh start. The advocacy organization was hosting an expungement fair aimed... Full story


A lawsuit challenging Oklahoma's lethal injection protocol is going to trial. Here's what's at stake

Overview: A federal judge will decide if Oklahoma’s lethal injection protocol is likely to cause unconstitutional pain and suffering. The outcome of an upcoming federal trial will have long-lasting implications for the death penalty in Oklahoma. A...


Ten criminal justice bills worth tracking this legislative session

Bills aimed at easing the reentry process for Oklahomans incarcerated received strong bipartisan support in 2021. The Senate and House unanimously voted to enact the Sarah Stitt Act, which directs the Department of Corrections to ensure prisoners...


While active cases remain low, Omicron threat looms in Oklahoma prisons

The highly contagious Omicron variant has arrived in Oklahoma, causing Covid-19 case numbers to surge and renewing concerns that hospitals will become overwhelmed. State prisons, where many of the incarcerated live in dormitory-style housing units,...


Five criminal justice issues to watch in 2022

Overview: State officials resumed executions after a six-year moratorium and mounting issues at the Oklahoma County Jail drew national attention. Inside state prisons, corrections officials distributed vaccines to the incarcerated and ended... Full story


Corrections Department seeks to hire teenagers as detention officers

Kenneth Manning applied to work as a state correctional officer on his 20th birthday. Manning was accepted into the Oklahoma Department of Corrections training academy in March 2018. He started... Full story


They don't vote, but they do count: How the incarcerated skew political representation in Oklahoma

HOLDENVILLE - Surrounded by soft rolling hills and small cattle herds, more than 1,300 men live together on the outskirts of this southeastern Oklahoma community. You won't find them shopping for...


Federal appeals court temporarily blocks state from carrying out two executions. What's next?

The future of the death penalty in Oklahoma is once again uncertain following a federal appeals court ruling. The U.S. Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals on Wednesday agreed to temporarily stay the executions of death row prisoners John Grant and Julius...


Corrections Department plans sign-on bonuses, temporary pay raises as prison staffing problems persist

The Oklahoma Department of Corrections plans to provide a $2,500 sign-on bonus to newly hired prison officers and temporarily boost pay for employees working in especially understaffed facilities. The agency’s staffing levels have dropped...


Rights of the condemned: What Oklahoma death row prisoners can and can't do in their final hours

As Oklahoma prepares to carry out seven executions over a five-month stretch, the U.S. Supreme Court will soon hear oral arguments in a case that could expand civil rights for the condemned....

 By Keaton Ross    Regional    August 8, 2021

Lawmakers seek studies on prison staffing, other criminal justice issues

State Rep. Justin Humphrey, R-Lane, has spent much of the summer sounding the alarm over Oklahoma's prison understaffing problem. On June 18 he asked Gov. Kevin Stitt to declare a state of emergency,... Full story

 By Keaton Ross    Regional    July 18, 2021

Empty, western Oklahoma town faces an uncertain future

HINTON-When the price of crude oil nosedived in the mid-1980s, this rural community halfway between El Reno and Weatherford was in trouble. Oil rig workers, once flush with cash and eager to spend it... Full story

 By Keaton Ross    Local    July 4, 2021

Corrections director blames press leak for abrupt prison closure announcement

Noting a steady decline in Oklahoma's prison population, state corrections officials started formulating a plan to close the dilapidated William S. Key Correctional Center in Fort Supply in mid-May....

 By Keaton Ross    Regional    June 25, 2021

As state prison staffing shortage persists, advocates fear violence

Persuaded by his two uncles, both veteran state corrections officers, Tommy Thompson applied to work at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary in the spring of 2018. He breezed through a six-week training period and was promoted from cadet to officer by...

 By Keaton Ross    Regional    June 20, 2021

Study: Oklahoma prosecutors are strong lobbyists

When Oklahoma prosecutors back a criminal justice bill, chances are it will become law. Oklahoma district attorneys lobbied for or against 47 bills from 2015 to 2018, according to a study published June 3 by the University of North Carolina School...


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