by: Nate Morris, senior editor
“I’m an anomaly,” Proehl-Day said, wiping away tears, “statistically speaking, I shouldn’t be having this conversation with you.”
“People are more than that piece of paper you’re reading in an office downtown,” she continues, “they have a family, they have people who love them.”
Jenny Proehl-Day is the female major party nominee for Tulsa District Attorney and the first Democrat to run for the seat in decades. Even before a single vote has been counted, her campaign is already steeped in history.
For her, though, this campaign is not about making history as much as it is about making change, and the charge is deeply personal.
“I am the product of the war on drugs. I’ve had a brother and a father entered into the criminal justice system,” an emotional Proehl-Day revealed. “When I was in second grade my parents were arrested in front of me for selling marijuana. I was that kid other kids’ parents said couldn’t play with me, because of my parents… this is the first time I’ve talked about this in the campaign.”
Proehl-Day sees a system of criminal justice in Tulsa that is deeply fractured and believes that she is the right person to fix it.
In order to be successful, she pledges to attack problems she has identified from all angles.
She openly acknowledges that the gaps in the system disproportionately affect communities of color and, if elected, would fight to implement strategies to remedy this longstanding reality.
Proehl-Day believes that implicit bias training within the prosecutorial offices and recruiting people of color to work in the DA’s office and to the police department is vital to this outcome.
“We need to have more conversations around police misconduct and prosecutorial misconduct,” she stated emphatically.
Proehl-Day also believes that changes in policy for those entering and exiting the criminal justice system are equally critical. She wants to begin by looking at how biases have played a role in the prosecution of cases for decades.
“We need to establish a conviction integrity unit to look at old convictions,” Proehl-Day proposed, “instead of waiting for the innocence project to come knocking on our door, the DA needs to acknowledge that the prosecutor’s office has played big role in contributing to the injustices in the system.”
In addition to considering police oversight committees and opting not to prosecute people with simple possession of marijuana with state charges, Proehl-Day believes that one of the most important things she can do as DA is shake up the system from the inside out.
“I am an outsider,” she said, “I am never going to be able to be one of them.”
Proehl-Day faces an uphill battle in order to get elected. She is a relatively unknown Democrat waging a progressive campaign in a deep red district against a relatively popular GOP incumbent, Steve Kuntzweiler, who may be best known for taking the step of filing charges against officers involved in the high profile shootings of unarmed Black men. While it has caused a rift between him and the local police union, it has strengthened his ties with some in the community.
Proel-Day knows the odds are stacked against her, but she remains undeterred.
For her, success as a DA would include a decrease in both arrest and recidivism.
“Oklahoma has been “tough on crime” for 30 years. “We incarcerate more people per capital than anywhere else in the world now. If you are comfortable with that designation, then you should vote with the name that you know,” she said, referencing her opponent.
“If you want something different, I am your obvious choice.”
Election Day is Tuesday, November 6th. Polls are open from 7AM – 7PM.