2022 A Year of Resilience in the Face of Darkness

2022 has been a test of Oklahomans’ resilience. Despite multiple infringements of our civil liberties this year, our organization has a lot to look back on. There were many positive movements in Oklahoma that showed clear results of just how effective our work can be. This year, we found the most traction in the classroom and the criminal justice system. These wins are a green light to further defend the freedoms guaranteed to us by the U.S. and Oklahoma Constitution. 
Even though Oklahoma state prosecutors scheduled the highest number of executions in five years, we also saw great strides to create a more equitable criminal justice system. Firstly, HB 3925 helped standardized procedures on paying for court fees, which helps alleviate some of the stress a lot of people experience when navigating the legal system. HB 3316 helps give people with misdemeanor and some felony charges a ‘clean slate’ by expunging records once approved by the court. Oklahoma is now one of only five states that offer this relief. Additionally, our advocacy efforts helped strike down SB 1282, which would have increased harassment by law enforcement towards children of color. 
In March, we pressured the Department of Corrections to grant group yard for people incarcerated with death sentences. This means those with death sentences were able to be outside, which includes a picnic table, dominoes and other outdoor activities. This comes after DOJ complied with a 2017 joint request from ACLU of OK and partners to move people to move people from H-Unit to A-Unit. We also continued our efforts with the Julius Jones Coalition and the Oklahoma Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty. These organizations help us push for a moratorium on state executions and call lawmakers to refocus on community-based mental health and social welfare services. 
As our team still awaiting judgement on our request for preliminary injunction for HB 1775, we visited local schools to help address outlandish book bans proposed by the attorney general and library boards. With local advocates, we spoke out against the Enid Public Library Board censoring media which address themes of gender identity and sexuality. Eventually the board reversed their decision. To further raise concerns about HB 1775, we sent hundreds of public comments to the State Board of Education, with the help of our supporters. 
Lastly, the Department of Justice responded to our request to investigate the City of Oklahoma and OKCPD’s response to mental health crises. This investigation will attempt to hold law enforcement and state agencies accountable for discriminating against Oklahomans with disabilities and government overreach. This is a beginning long-term step for law enforcement to shift their focus from punitive action to making sure individuals have the mental health services they need during times of crisis.  
2022 has been filled with legislation that infringes on the constitutional rights of people who can be pregnant and the 2SLGBTQ+ community. In these specific fields, we advocated for contraceptive resources and filed litigation against SB 615, an anti-transgender bathroom bill. In addition, we held a highly successful “Smash the Patriarchy” event, which allowed people to express their angers and concerns about abortion bans. Until the next legislative session, we will receive a ruling on our request to preliminarily enjoin SB 615, and prepare to advocate against attacks on reproductive access and evidence-based medical care  
With our legal, organizing, advocacy and communications work combined, we have a full docket in front of us next year. Our supporters and community partners inspire our staff to keep going, even when the outcomes are against us. To brace for further attacks on vulnerable groups in Oklahoma, the ACLU of OK will continue our efforts at the Capitol, in the courtroom and on the streets.