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Prater, Steele quit as chairmen of working group following emotional meeting

Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater and former House Speaker Kris Steele quit as chairs of the Justice Reinvestment Initiative Working Group following an emotional meeting Thursday morning at the state Supreme Court building.
by Andrew Knittle Modified: March 14, 2013 at 9:49 pm •  Published: March 15, 2013

“There are certain appropriate places for the state to go and seek federal funding,” Mullins said. “There are some times when we are going to hold the federal government accountable for what they're responsible for. That situation isn't present here.”

The announcement made by Prater and Steele closely followed the passage of House Bill 2042, a bill that calls for the creation of a formal body within the state government to implement and oversee the Oklahoma Justice Reinvestment Initiative.

“As of now, there is no formal governmental group who has been legally tasked with implementing this plan and making it work,” Fallin said Thursday in a prepared statement. “The members of the working group are well-intentioned and committed to JRI ... however, they are an informal, extragovernmental group with limited access to the ... agencies tasked with this important reform effort.”

Steele said the $377,000 in federal funds would have been used to help train judges, lawyers and others involved in criminal justice system as the state works to implement the reforms.

During Thursday's meeting, an official with Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services said the agency recently spent $20,000 to train its employees how to perform evaluations in accordance with the reforms that took effect in November.

“Instead of using the grant money to pay for the training, we're having to use appropriated dollars for direct services,” Steele said.

“So, we're taking away from direct services because we've turned down this money.”