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Articles written by Keaton Ross

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 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...

 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...


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