Oklahoma City Representative Ajay Pittman’s study focuses on barriers to reentry
OKLAHOMA CITY – Rep. Ajay Pittman, D-Oklahoma City, hosted an interim study Monday (September 20) to look at Oklahoma’s current reentry practices for Oklahomans who have served their time after conviction.
The goal of the study was to understand the resources Oklahomans receive once they leave custody. The study also featured testimony on how effective reentry procedures help people readjust and become productive community members.
“Whether your goal is as deep as helping the human spirit or as simple as saving money on incarceration, the assistance we give Oklahomans as they leave a state correctional facility can make all the difference in their transition back into society,” Pittman said.“We owe it to every Oklahoman to ensure the people we send back to our communities have the resources necessary to succeed.”
Reentry policy advocates spoke at length during the study about their incarceration experience and obstacles during reentry.“It is good to see the Legislature focusing on helping people re-enter society after prison,” said Zeke Gonzales, an advocate and founder of Celda 151.“A better reentry system would have helped me get back on my feet faster.”
Oklahomans face obstacles that define their chances of success as soon as they leave a correctional facility. These barriers to reentry can be as simple as obtaining a driver’s license to more complicated issues like housing and transportation.
“It is critical to acknowledge and remove reentry barriers for Oklahoma’s returning citizens,” said Alice Marie Johnson, founder, and CEO of the Taking Action for Good Foundation. Johnson’s case gained national attention when Kim Kardashian West helped get Johnson pardoned by President Donald Trump after serving 21 years in federal prison. Since her release, Johnson has used her experience to become a national advocate for criminal justice reform.“This leads to safer communities, lower recidivism rates, and job readiness,” Johnson said.“Many thanks to Representative Pittman for hosting and inviting me to speak at this event. I am so honored to have my voice included.”
Pittman plans to use the study to craft legislation to overcome some of Oklahoma’s current barriers to reentry. Additionally, the Oklahoma City representative appreciates the support from the chair of the Criminal Justice and Corrections Committee.
“I want to thank Chair Rep. Justin Humphrey for his support during this interim study,” Pittman said.“I look forward to working with him to find solutions to many of the obstacles Oklahomans face when moving from a correctional facility back into their community. We all want productive and successful citizens.”