Over the past year, The Frontier has worked to hold public officials accountable for deaths at county jails and an ongoing lack of funding and treatment options for people battling mental illness and addiction in Oklahoma.
This kind of reporting takes time and money to produce — weeks and sometimes months of filing open records requests, poring over court documents, phone calls to jails, knocking on doors and chasing down public officials. Your donation to The Frontier helps fund this important work.
I interviewed a prisoner at the Oklahoma County Detention Center who listened helplessly as Brad Lane was beaten to death in another cell just five feet away. Lane was being held at the dangerously understaffed jail on non-violent property and drug-related charges. Friends said Lane battled depression and used illicit drugs to self-medicate.
I interviewed the mother of Grace Franklin, who has been diagnosed with schizophrenia and spent six months in the Stephens County jail on a misdemeanor public intoxication charge, waiting for mental health treatment to restore her competency to stand trial. Oklahoma jails are often ill-equipped to handle people with severe mental illness, who must wait months for treatment at a state hospital.
And I spoke with the family of Parker Stephens, who died by suicide in the Oklahoma County jail. Stephens’ mother and aunt say they repeatedly begged jail staff to move him to the facility’s mental health pod before his death.
Frontier reporter Kayla Branch wrote about how underfunded Oklahoma jails continue to be the state’s largest provider of mental health services, five years after Oklahoma voters approved a landmark package of criminal justice reforms that included creating a new fund for county mental health programs. The Legislature still has not sent any money to the fund and the state has yet to draft official rules for how the money can be spent.
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