Rep. Swope to Present Interim Study to Improve Juvenile Justice System

Aug 14, 2023
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Data reveals Black and American Indian Children Are Overrepresented in Youth Justice System and Rural Resources Are Limited. 

OKLAHOMA CITY – Rep. Amanda Swope, D-Tulsa will present an interim study to identify areas of improvement to the juvenile justice system.

“I’ll be working with local and national organizations to look at juvenile justice best practices and identify ways Oklahoma’s system could be improved and the juvenile to adult incarceration pipeline can be stopped. We will look for restorative approaches to bring to our state that keep kids accountable while utilizing our best asset, strong community support," Rep. Swope said.

The interim study will provide space and opportunity to collaborate with organizations like the Oklahoma Policy Institute to identify areas of improvement in the juvenile justice system.

The Oklahoma Policy Institute in 2022 published Better Tomorrows: A Landscape Analysis of Oklahoma’s Youth Justice System and Suggested Reforms, a comprehensive look at the state's youth justice system.

The report found that lack of public support for core programs that foster family and child well-being — including education, food security, economic opportunity, and mental health services — has led too many Oklahoma children to become involved in a youth justice system that is historically punitive and under-resourced. The data also showed Black and American Indian children are overrepresented in every part of the youth justice system, and that referrals to the youth justice system varied widely depending on the county.

"Unless we move forward with data-driven reforms and build upon the utilization of evidence-based therapeutic models, Oklahoma's youth justice system will continue to traumatize far too many Oklahoma children and their families. We're grateful to Reps. Swope and Talley for a bipartisan examination of how we can improve Oklahoma's youth justice system to deliver on its responsibility to treat children as children in its mission to rehabilitate youth," said Jill Mencke, Youth Justice Policy Analyst for the Oklahoma Policy Institute.

Solutions that legislators and policymakers may consider to improve our youth justice system include:   

  • Fully funding core services and agencies in the youth justice sector.
  • Extending and expanding support services, particularly in rural areas.
  • Strengthening and adequately funding alternatives to incarceration that can help keep children out of our justice system and engaged in their communities.
  • Eliminating youth court fines and fees to help Oklahoma’s children and their families get back on track.
  • Establishing a minimum age of criminal responsibility in Oklahoma.
  • Ensuring quality legal counsel for justice-involved children.
  • Increase transparency and accountability by requiring regular reporting and clearly defined systems to measure success.
  • Establishing a youth justice policy advocacy coalition focused on sustained change.

The study will be heard before the House Children, Youth and Family Services Committee, which is chaired by Rep. John Talley, R-Stillwater.


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