OPINION | By Richard Z. Baxter
(Tulsa, Okla.) — “Labor Omnia Vincit” Latin for “Labor conquers all things,” is the official state motto of Oklahoma. The question that I pose is, has Oklahoma stayed true to its motto? If we truly believe that labor conquers all things, then the idea of job creation and putting people to work to reduce the financial vacuum which leads the majority of incarcerated people outside the law would be the most “Oklahoman” thing to do.
No state in the Union wants to be on the lower end of the spectrum when it comes to being named a safe or unsafe state in which to live. When someone poses the question if a state is a safe place to live or not, the crime rate is usually the first deciding factor in answering that question, followed by the weather-related natural disasters that are in that area.
With crime being the first thing to come to mind, a deeper look into the criminal statistics of Oklahoma seemed necessary. In her June 7th article, Jennifer Cruz of Guns.com cites a study done by WalletHub for 2017’s National Safety Month; best – and worst – state safety ratings, ranking Oklahoma at number 48 out of 50. So the question is, do Oklahomans commit more crime than other states? As of 8/21/2017 Oklahoma Department of Corrections report:
|Incarcerated Inmates Grand Total||26,628|
|County Jail Transfers Pending||1,589|
|Community Supervision Grand Total||34,391|
|Total System Population||62,608|
With this number of people in the Department of Corrections system, it leads one to inquire about the demographics of the total population of the people incarcerated.
|Incarcerated Inmates Inside Total||23,402||2,881||26,283|
|Incarcerated Inmates Outside Total||295||50||345|
|Incarcerated Inmates Grand Total||23,697||2,931||26,628|
|County Jail Transfers Pending||1,307||282||1,589|
With ‘race’ being an inescapable factor in the conversation of justice in America, it is irresponsible to omit the racial demographics of those incarcerated. On the Department of Corrections website, there is no place where you can see the total numbers of incarcerated individuals by their race, despite this information being available on each individual’s profile, along with height, weight, hair color, and eye color.
The state of Oklahoma’s population is roughly four million people. The simple math of population plus crime will have to compute that there is no way that Oklahomans can commit more crimes than California, for example, who outranked them by 27 in the study and has a population ten times larger than Oklahoma’s.
So what gives Oklahoma such a low rating in the national safety ranking? There are a few additional significant factors that should come into consideration when answering the question of what makes a state considered safe. Cruz explains,
“[e]xperts looked at five main factors: Personal and residential safety, financial safety, road safety, workplace safety and emergency preparedness. These five factors were composed of data sets made up of 37 key metrics, which included details such as assaults per capita, unemployment rates and climate disasters per capita.”
We are chumping with the bottom of the barrel, and it’s going to take a tremendous amount of work to climb our way to the top 5 but remember, “Labor Omnia Vincit.”