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Articles written by Keaton Ross

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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...

 
 By Keaton Ross    Local    May 23, 2021

State Corrections Board votes to extend private prison contract

The Oklahoma Board of Corrections on Wednesday unanimously approved two contracts that will keep the North Fork Correctional Facility in Sayre and Davis Correctional Facility in Holdenville open through July 2023. CoreCivic, a Tennessee-based...

 
 By Keaton Ross    Regional    March 21, 2021

A guide to the Pardon and Parole Board as the Julius Jones case advances

A week before death row inmate Julius Jones’ Stage 1 commutation hearing, media personality Kim Kardashian challenged her 69 million Twitter followers to phone the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board and advocate for his release. “Tell them to send... Full story

 

Oklahoma's jail mortality rate ranks second in nation

According to a Reuters News investigation published last October, 148 inmates housed in Oklahoma’s 11 largest county jails died from 2009 through 2019. The jails combined had an average annual mortality rate of 2.16 deaths per 1,000 inmates, the se...

 

Corrections officials say inmates, prison staff will be vaccinated in February

The Oklahoma Department of Corrections expects to start administering Covid-19 vaccine doses next month, director Scott Crow said Wednesday during an agency board meeting. Every state-run and private...

 

Inmates, corrections staff express reluctance to take the Covid-19 vaccine

Oklahoma inmates are experiencing their own version of pandemic fatigue. The corrections department has limited inmate movement and enforced a mask mandate for staff and prisoners since April. A syste... Full story

 

As Covid-19 spreads in state prisons, inmate families protest poor conditions

An upset prison guard walked into Stephanie Avery's housing unit. Avery, a former Mabel Bassett Correctional Center inmate, says the officer pulled her mask below the chin, approached a group of...

 

How the Biden administration could influence criminal justice in Oklahoma

Three weeks before he was named the Democratic nominee for president, Joe Biden released a comprehensive criminal justice reform plan. The President-elect proposes abolishing the federal death...

 
 By Keaton Ross    Local    November 22, 2020

Oklahoma prison coronavirus outbreak

Two weeks into his stay in Lexington A&R, a guard approached Robert Lavern's cell door and told him to gather his belongings. Lavern was accustomed to moving. Over the course of four weeks, he...

 

Why Oklahomans rejected the criminal justice reform 805 offered

A wide swath of urban and rural voters rejected State Question 805, bringing a yearlong campaign by criminal justice reform advocates to modify Oklahoma’s sentencing laws to an undramatic end. All 77 counties opposed the ballot initiative, which...

 

A guide to State Question 805 and its potential impact on Oklahoma criminal justice

As the Nov. 3 general election date draws near, public confusion regarding State Question 805—a ballot initiative which would amend the Oklahoma Constitution and end the use of sentence enhancements against some repeat offenders—remains high. In...

 
 By Keaton Ross    Local    October 4, 2020

Inmates fear retribution from state plan to block contraband phones

It was the kind of weekend inmates, guards and their loved ones fear. A series of coordinated gang fights broke out across six Oklahoma men’s prisons last Sept. 14 and 15. Several corrections guards were injured, 36 inmates were hospitalized and on...

 

COVID-19 in state prisons: 'It's supposed to be a work camp, not a death camp'

When Antonio Lucio arrived at the Northeast Oklahoma Correctional Center in Vinita last month, he saw an environment where the coronavirus could spread quickly. Lucio, who is serving a seven-year sentence for drug possession with intent to...

 

'Sued every way and Sunday.' New prison phone provider has troubled history

Inmates in Oklahoma state prisons will soon connect to the outside world through Securus Technologies, a Texas-based prison communications company that has paid out millions over the past four years to settle claims that it illegally recorded phone c...

 
 By Keaton Ross    Local    July 24, 2020

Oklahoma's prison population is dropping amid the pandemic. Will the trend continue?

As reform efforts take shape and the coronavirus pandemic causes delays within the criminal justice system, Oklahoma's prison population has steadily declined since early March. The number of inmates...

 
 By Keaton Ross    Regional    July 22, 2020

Oklahoma's prison population is dropping amid the pandemic. Will the trend continue?

As reform efforts take shape and the coronavirus pandemic causes delays within the criminal justice system, Oklahoma's prison population has steadily declined since early March. The number of inmates...

 
 By Keaton Ross    Local    July 12, 2020

Legislature is disproportionately white. These candidates are trying to change that

Every seat in the Oklahoma House of Representatives and half of the state Senate is up for election in November. Of the 187 remaining candidates, just eight are Black and three are Hispanic, according to an Oklahoma Watch review of June 30 primary...

 
 By Keaton Ross    Local    June 26, 2020

What you need to know about voting in the primary election

Oklahomans will soon vote in the first major election since the COVID-19 pandemic surged to a level that locked down much of the state. The disruption has left many voters with questions about the voting process itself, in addition to basic...

 
 By Keaton Ross    Local    June 24, 2020

What you need to know about voting in the primary election

Oklahomans will soon vote in the first major election since the COVID-19 pandemic surged to a level that locked down much of the state. The disruption has left many voters with questions about the voting process itself, in addition to basic... Full story

 

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