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Oklahoma City named as a finalist in 2018 Bloomberg Philanthropies' Mayors Challenge

Oklahoma City has submitted a proposal on criminal justice reform to the Bloomberg Philanthropies' Mayors Challenge. (Dan Snyder/KOKH)

Oklahoma City has earned a top spot in a national challenge, and the grand prize is worth millions of dollars. The Bloomberg Philanthropies’ 2018 U.S. Mayors Challenge encourages city leaders to come up with bold, innovative ideas to confront the cities’ toughest problems.

Oklahoma City’s proposal focuses on criminal justice reform.

“There are a number of partners at the table that have come together and said let’s look at this problem holistically,” said Jackie Shawnee with the Oklahoma City-County Health Department.

A team of leaders from the health department, law enforcement, and the judicial system is hoping to tackle overcrowding in Oklahoma City’s jails with a unique proposal.

“We want to prevent folks from even winding up in the criminal justice system, but those that have who are real low-level offenders that just don’t really need to be there, this program wants to work with them too,” Shawnee said.

Community health workers would use a shared data system to identify people who need help, not time behind bars.

“So they may look at their housing situation or their access to food or their need for mental health or their need for simple health care services, and they will link them to those services,” said Shawnee.

Providing those resources could prevent those who are at risk from ending up in jail or help them break the cycle of incarceration.

“People who have access to things like housing, transportation, and jobs are healthier,” said Shawnee.

Oklahoma City will spend the next six months building the new data system and testing it. Then they’ll resubmit their proposal in August to the Mayors Challenge, in the hopes of winning the funds to bring the idea to life.

The city’s proposal was selected out of more than 300 entries across the nation. Oklahoma City is one of 35 cities now in the second phase of the competition.

In October, Bloomberg Philanthropies will give $1 million awards to four cities and a grand prize of $5 million to one city.

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