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Corrections Director Justin Jones discusses his resignation

Justin Jones
Justin Jones

by Patrick B. McGuigan
Associate Publisher

The outgoing director of the Oklahoma Department of Corrections says Oklahoma’s historic Justice Reinvestment Initiative presently “is lacking what [former state House Speaker] Kris Steele brought to this endeavor.”

Justin Jones, who is leaving his post in a few weeks, said that while in office former Rep. Steele, a Shawnee Republican, was “someone in a position to affect change across multiple disciplines with the true passion and commitment in applying evidence-based research, data analysis and best practices in the criminal justice profession.” Such advocacy, Jones said, “would enhance public safety while also being efficient with limited resources.”

Steele now works as minister/director for The Education and Employoment Ministry (TEEM) in Oklahoma City.

Asked directly about his reasons for leaving, Jones said, “It was time to start a new chapter in my life.”

Jones answered questions from CapitolBeatOK after news of his resignation spread throughout state government.

When asked if “JRI” was presently falling short in Oklahoma, Jones reflected, “The best way to provide public safety is prevention, reducing recidivism and addressing key social illnesses that contribute to crime, such as addictions and mental illness. The Justice Reinvestment Initiative was designed to do this.”

Jones told CapitolBeatOK there were a number of frustrations during his tenure: “One frustration has been the attempt to engage all stakeholders in understanding the value and the return on investment to … Oklahoma in providing prevention that addresses the pathways that increase the likelihood of incarceration. This is coupled with convincing legislative stakeholders that reducing recidivism through evidence-based programming provides the best public safety by eliminating future victimization.”

Jones continued, “Secondly, employees of the Department of Corrections are the most dedicated, unselfish public servants that, due to the nature of their work, are out of sight and out of mind from most of the public. You only hear about them when there is a disastrous incident.”

The agency’s employees, he maintains, “do a yeoman’s work in a very complex profession, but recognition for all they do is lacking, and difficult to achieve. … Continued net inmate growth is frustrating as in many cases this is indicative of a society’s failure to respond to social illnesses that contribute to the likelihood of being incarcerated.”

Concerning his plans for the future, Jones disclosed, “I will be looking for employment. I prefer to stay in Oklahoma, as I have a daughter and grandchildren here, but will also pursue other options as they avail themselves. I also plan on writing two books. One is a follow-up to a book I wrote in 2004 called ‘Tales of the Caseload,’ and the second one will be on leadership.”

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