Program Geared To Keeping Tulsans Out Of Jail Gets Special Recognition

Tuesday, October 11th 2016, 10:03 pm
By: News On 6

A Tulsa program geared toward helping people with minor offenses is getting special attention from the mayor.

It's called Special Services Court, and instead of re-arresting people for minor offenses, the program gives some the option to work off the crime and court fees.

For the last two years, Chief City Prosecutor Bob Garner has worked with different agencies across the city to keep the Special Services Court alive.

It gives people with misdemeanor mental, drug and alcohol issues a chance to stay out of jail.

"They really need some attention and some help, and incarceration is maybe not the answer," Garner said.

He said people with those issues are often re-arrested - sometimes multiple times in a week.

Instead of racking up jail time and court costs, they have a different option.

Garner said, "They are willing to make the commitment to be in court when the judge orders them to be in court, having no violations of any city, state, or federal laws during this six month period, and making all the appointments with case workers."

In the last year, the program has helped lower the recidivism rate by 70 percent.  As a result, people spent 9,000 fewer days in jail, saving taxpayers $700,000.

The success earned Garner the Tulsa Blue award, but he didn't do it alone.

Michael Brose with the Mental Health Association said, "I think we all are in awe of how successful it's been, and we still just donate time to it."

Brose has been working with Garner and said it is amazing to see the growth and change as people come back month to month.

"It's a move and a shift from punitive justice to restorative justice," he said.