TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 11
An Oklahoma City University criminal justice major was one of a handful of students invited to attend the recent Oklahoma Town Hall Academy in Ardmore, and says she hopes the experience was as useful to the state as it was to her.
Shannon Foster was part of a group of attorneys, law enforcement officials, public officials and others with a vested interest in the topic of criminal justice in Oklahoma that met for a three-day workshop in an effort to find solutions to various problems. Foster said the workshop covered such topics as incarceration, mental illness, re-integration into public life, politics and funding, all as they relate to crime.
“The ultimate goal is to draft recommendations to take to the state Legislature,” Foster said. “Even if they aren’t or can’t be passed, I came away with an appreciation that they’re (government officials) at least looking at the issues from different avenues.”
Foster explained how the group divided into panels each day to discuss the issues. The individual panels met again as a full group later in the day to present what they had come up with.
After comparing notes from the panels, she said recorders drafted a master document that will be further refined before it is delivered to the state Legislature.
One of the things Foster found interesting was the fact that the participants were encouraged to stay on a first-name basis with no consideration for anyone’s official title. She said the policy was sometimes easier said than done, especially considering some of the participants were well-known higher-ups in government like Attorney General Drew Edmondson.
“We were supposed to call everyone by their first name, which was intended to keep everyone on the same level. They wanted us to feel comfortable expressing our opinions within a true, open dialogue,” she said.
Foster was nominated to attend the academy by Jody Horn, professor and chair of sociology and justice studies at OCU. Horn said Foster has shown genuine interest in the career field and thus was the perfect candidate for the meeting.
And Foster, who plans to continue her education by going after a master’s degree, said she gained from the experience not only through increasing her education on the issues, but also from networking with those already in the field.
“It was helpful to see beyond the corrections and justice sides of the issues and into the politics of trying to get everyone to agree on something,” she said. “It was interesting to see the cogs in the wheel work together for a common goal.”