When he said “sunlight is the best disinfectant,” former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis was talking about transparency in government. His quote applies perfectly to a program that's cleaning up Oklahoma County a little at a time.
SHINE (Start Helping Impacted Neighborhoods Everywhere) is a program started three years ago by County Commissioner Brian Maughan, after conversations with chief public defender Bob Ravitz. It puts low-level offenders to work doing real community service.
Men and women in the SHINE program remove graffiti, haul away trash and old tires, clear overgrown brush and work to transform areas by helping drive out criminal elements. Hookers and drug dealers and gangbangers go elsewhere once their nasty hangouts are exposed and cleanup crews arrive.
On a recent tour of SHINE projects, Maughan showed an area in south Oklahoma City, a stone's throw from the Oklahoma River trails, that had been cleaned up. Drug dealers who had been operating there were forced to skedaddle. Maughan's pride and joy may be Crystal Lake, a large city park in far west Oklahoma City that had been rendered almost unusable because of dumping. After months of cleanup work, including the removal of 2,200 tires, Crystal Lake is a gem.
In three years, about 3,200 people have been sentenced to the SHINE program and completed 160,000 hours of community service. Only a handful of participants have wound up back in court. The program saves the county money by easing crowding at the county jail and providing free labor for jobs that otherwise would be done by county work crews.
And the movement is spreading. Students for SHINE, comprising high schools and colleges throughout the county, has knocked out 100,000 hours of work during its eight months of existence. Maughan hopes to get the faith community involved as well. (Those interested can call 601-1634.)
SHINE is making a difference in the community. Here's to several more years of successful disinfecting.