THE TULSA COUNTY PUBLIC DEFENDER’S OFFICE JOINS THE SAFETY AND JUSTICE CHALLENGE TO REDUCE THE RATE OF FAILURES-TO-APPEAR AND INCREASE CONNECTIONS TO SOCIAL SAFETY NET RESOURCES
Tulsa, Okla. (October 24, 2018) – The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation today announced that Tulsa County is one of 12 additional jurisdictions joining the Safety and Justice Challenge, a national $148 million initiative to reduce over-incarceration by changing the way America thinks about and uses jails. The Tulsa County Public Defender’s Office (TCPD) and the other jurisdictions will design and test innovative local justice reforms designed to safely drive down jail usage and increase critical court appearances using state-of-the-art technology.
TCPD was chosen following a highly competitive selection process that drew applications from across the country. TCPD will work in tandem with Family & Children’s Services (F&CS), the state’s largest outpatient community mental health center. TCPD’s innovations will focus on addressing criminal justice involvement and incarceration through cost-effective, evidence-based, user-friendly technology that provides automatic reminders for court appointments, and connects clients to vital social services.
Since 1999, Tulsa County’s Jail rate of incarceration has grown 43 percent partially due to pretrial detentions. Those without access to cash might stay in jail because they cannot afford bail. Others who miss a pretrial court appearance have an arrest warrant issued and the next time they encounter the police, they are jailed. Many times the underlying cause of this failure-to-appear is not because of flight risk but rather barriers such as of lack of transportation, child care issues, work schedule conflicts or that the never received a reminder.
Between 1999 and 2016, the probation population in the U.S. rose 24%. Currently, over 11,000 people are subject to supervised probation in Tulsa. “We are excited at this opportunity because it allows us to improve the success rate of current and future probationers in Tulsa, which in turn increases public safety, saves taxpayer money, and reduces recidivism,” said Chief Public Defender Corbin Brewster.
Through the Challenge’s Innovation Fund, TCPD will use the Uptrust app, a text-message based two-way communication tool providing court reminders. Currently being used in four states, the app is helping keep low low-income defendants out of jail on bench warrants and technical violations. In Tulsa County, Uptrust is modifying the app to include a communication component with an F&CS social worker to provide services and linkages to resources including mental health care, addiction recovery support and access to basic needs.
“Through this MacArthur Foundation grant, we are able to implement an innovative technology solution which can lead to criminal justice reform and better client outcomes,” said Women in Recovery Chief Program Officer Mimi Tarrasch.
“There is growing demand for criminal justice reform across the country, and local jurisdictions are leading the way,” said Laurie Garduque, MacArthur’s Director of Justice Reform. “MacArthur is increasing our investment in local just reform innovations because we are seeing promising results and an appetite for more reform as evidenced by the diversity and creativity of the solutions implemented and tested across the Network.”
TCPD and the other Innovation Fund jurisdictions will receive short-term support of $50,000 each, are eligible for future funding opportunities, and have access to the resources, peer learning opportunities, and expertise of the Safety and Justice Challenge Network. The Urban Institute, which is managing the Innovation Fund in partnership with the Foundation, will provide expert technical assistance to the jurisdictions as they implement their plans. Key learnings and resources emerging from the Innovation Fund will be shared with and beyond the justice reform field.
TCPD will continue to place an emphasis on community engagement and collaboration among local law enforcement, corrections officials, prosecutors, defenders, judges, and other stakeholders in this work to test, innovate, and drive reform.
The Innovation Fund jurisdictions expand the Challenge’s reach into new states and deepen its work across the country. They include:
- Baltimore City, MD
- Bernalillo County, NM
- Camden County, NJ
- Cumberland County, ME
- Franklin County, OH
- Gwinnett County, GA
- Hennepin County, MN
- City of Long Beach, CA
- Norfolk County, MA
- Sangamon County, IL
- City of St. Louis, MO
- Tulsa County, OK
Information about the selected jurisdictions, as well as news, research, and events related to the Safety and Justice Challenge, will be published on www.SafetyandJusticeChallenge.org.
About the MacArthur Foundation: The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation supports creative people, effective institutions, and influential networks building a more just, verdant, and peaceful world. MacArthur is placing a few big bets that truly significant progress is possible on some of the world’s most pressing social challenges, including over-incarceration, global climate change, nuclear risk, and significantly increasing financial capital for the social sector. In addition to the MacArthur Fellows Program, the Foundation continues its historic commitments to the role of journalism in a responsible and responsive democracy, as well as the strength and vitality of our headquarters city, Chicago. More information about the Foundation’s criminal justice reform work can be found at www.macfound.org/criminaljustice.
About the Urban Institute: The nonprofit Urban Institute is dedicated to elevating the debate on social and economic policy. For nearly five decades, Urban scholars have conducted research and offered evidence-based solutions that improve lives and strengthen communities across a rapidly urbanizing world. Their objective research helps expand opportunities for all, reduce hardship among the most vulnerable, and strengthen the effectiveness of the public sector.
About Tulsa County Public Defender’s Office: The Tulsa County Public Defender’s Office is tasked with protecting the rights of indigent criminal defendants in Tulsa County. The agency, which includes 43 attorneys, handles around 9,000 criminal cases a year, including over 1,500 probation revocations and accelerations per year. The Public Defender’s office mission is to achieve the best possible results for the individual based upon the unique circumstances of each client’s life.
About Family & Children’s Services: For nearly a century, Family & Children’s Services has been the place to turn for help with problems that seem overwhelming and too difficult to handle alone. The agency restores children’s well-being, heals victims of abuse, strengthens individuals and families, and provides hope and recovery for adults suffering from mental illness and addictions. Today, its life-changing services help one in six Tulsans.