Oklahoma Conference of Churches hosts criminal justice conference

OKLAHOMA CITY – On Monday, March 23, the public is invited to attend the 32 nd “Annual Day at the Legislature” themed, “Doing Justice Criminal Justice and Corrections in Oklahoma.” Hosted by the Oklahoma Conference of Churches (OCC), registration and check-in for the morning session will convene at the Oklahoma State Capitol at 8:30 a.m. on the 2 nd floor.

Free parking is available on the south side of Capitol. Attendees are asked to use the southeast entrance. Coffee and pastries will be provided.

The United States leads the world in incarceration, with over 2.4 million people behind bars, a 500 percent increase over the past 30 years. More than 60 percent of those in prison are people of color. 

One of every eight black males in their twenties is in prison or jail on any given day.

These realities have motivated OCC to make corrections reform the focus on this year’s Capitol Day.

At 8:30 a.m., participants will meet in the 4 th floor House Chamber where Lewis Webb, Jr., J.D., of the American Friends Service Committee, will present the keynote speech “Not in My Name: A Challenge to Communities of Faith.”

Webb has seen prison systems from several viewpoints. He worked in prisons, first as a consultant and then an analyst for the New York City Department of Corrections. 

He also has served as a prosecutor. 

He is currently a program coordinator in the American Friends Service Committee’s New York office. 

Webb has served as the Dean of the School of Criminal Justice at ASA College and Gibbs College. 

After joining the AFSC, Webb realized that his experience “was tilted in one direction.”

Webb said, “Much of my work was on the punishment end of the criminal justice system, so I was excited about looking at healing and transforming the system so that we don’t punish people so much.”

According to Webb his commitment now is to lift up the best in all people regardless of who they are or what they may have done.

“Learning about healing modalities, learning about opportunities to mitigate punishment, learning about how prisons have very little value and cause harm has been enlightening and now all of my energy is put into forward-thinking,” he said.

A panel discussion will follow featuring Webb, Kris Steele, Executive Director of The Education and Employment Ministry and former Speaker of the Oklahoma House of Representatives, and Terri White, Commissioner of the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services.

Attendees may participate in a Prayer Vigil at the 4th Floor Rotunda, or choose to meet with their legislators during the 11:00 a.m. hour. A guided Capitol tour is also available.

“This important event is a great opportunity to see the workings of the Oklahoma State Capitol,” said Rev. Dr. William Tabbernee, OCC Executive Director. 

Schools, civic organizations and church groups are all encouraged to participate.”

The afternoon session will then move to St. Paul’s Cathedral, 127 N.W. 7th St, in Oklahoma City. 

Free parking is available south of the Cathedral.

Lunch will be served at St. Paul’s Dean Willey Hall, located on the 2nd floor. 

The program will include the presentation of the OCC Advocacy Award.

The meal, including a deluxe baked potato and salad bar, is provided by McAlister’s Deli.

Following lunch, workshops will be offered including Advocacy; OCC IMPACT Committee; OCC Social Justice Ministry Network; the “Pipeline to Prison;” Racial Bias in Sentencing; Mental Health; and Immigration.

During the sessions advocacy and social justice ministry speakers will present information about Oklahoma’s legislative process. Attendees will learn how to organize and optimize support for or in opposition to a bill.

At 3:45 p.m. the Closing Session will feature Drew Edmondson, former Attorney General of Oklahoma (open to the public).

Each year OCC sponsors the Day at the Legislature in order to inform Oklahoma citizens about the legislative process and to create a learning environment for those who wish to better serve the state through responsible advocacy.

Registration includes all materials, programs, workshops, and lunch. Adults cost $35 and students are $15. For the complete schedule, visit okchurches.org or call 405-525-2928.