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Oklahoma Policy Institute

Jan 17, 2016 | by Lynn Powell

Oklahoma Policy Institute is pleased to announce that Ryan Gentzler has joined the organization in a new policy analyst position that will focus on criminal justice issues. The position is funded through a grant from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities that is intended to support state policy groups in work that can have a significant impact on critical policy issues. “We are very excited to be adding a dedicated staff person to examine Oklahoma’s criminal justice policies,” said David Blatt, OK Policy’s Executive Director. “Many organizations have laid the groundwork for criminal justice reform, and with an increasing number of political and civic leaders getting on board, the time is ripe for significant and urgently-needed progress.” With the addition of an analyst focused on criminal justice issues, OK Policy will be able to expand its research on how to reduce incarceration while protecting public safety, expand proven community-based alternatives to jail and prison, and make it easier for Oklahomans with felony records to rebuild their lives after incarceration.

Oklahoma Policy Institute is pleased to announce that Ryan Gentzler has joined the organization in a new policy analyst position that will focus on criminal justice issues. The position is funded through a grant from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities that is intended to support state policy groups in work that can have a significant impact on critical policy issues.

“We are very excited to be adding a dedicated staff person to examine Oklahoma’s criminal justice policies,” said David Blatt, OK Policy’s Executive Director. “Many organizations have laid the groundwork for criminal justice reform, and with an increasing number of political and civic leaders getting on board, the time is ripe for significant and urgently-needed progress.”

With the addition of an analyst focused on criminal justice issues, OK Policy will be able to expand its research on how to reduce incarceration while protecting public safety, expand proven community-based alternatives to jail and prison, and make it easier for Oklahomans with felony records to rebuild their lives after incarceration.

“In the upcoming legislative session, we’re optimistic that Oklahoma can make progress toward smarter criminal justice policies,” said Gene Perry, OK Policy’s Policy Director. “We’re going to continue pushing for sentencing reforms, civil asset forfeiture reform, and the removal of restrictions that prevent Oklahomans with a felony in their past from getting a job. We’ll also examine the growth of fines and court costs that can create a virtual debtor’s prison for Oklahomans charged with crimes.”

Gentzler previously worked as a Research Associate at the University of Oklahoma’s Early Childhood Education Institute. A native Nebraskan, he holds a Master of Public Administration from the University of Oklahoma and a BA in Institutions and Policy from William Jewell College.  Last year, he served as an OK Policy Research Fellow and participated in the organization’s Summer Policy Institute.

“With Ryan, we’re able to bring on board someone we know has excellent research skills, a strong work ethic, and a passionate commitment to the values we promote as an organization,” Blatt said. “We’re especially pleased to again reap the fruit of investments we are making to identify and train promising young talent through our Summer Policy Institute, Research Fellowships, and student internships.”

“It’s an honor to join such great people doing great work, especially in such an important policy area and at a time when the momentum for change is building,” said Gentzler. “I’m eager to contribute to OK Policy’s advocacy on criminal justice reform and to see the state take steps toward a system that works for all Oklahomans.”

With Gentzler, OK Policy now has a nine-member staff. The other members are: Executive Director David Blatt, Policy Director Gene Perry, Operations and Development Director Shiloh Kantz, Policy Analyst Carly Putnam, Policy Analyst DeVon Douglass, Outreach and Advocacy Specialist Kara Joy McKee, Outreach and Operations Associate Tyler Parette, and Legislative Liaison Damario Solomon-Simmons.

“Just six years ago, we could barely scrounge together a singles tennis match from our staff,” Blatt noted. “Now we can field a full baseball squad! This speaks to the reputation we’ve built as a trusted source of information and analysis, and to the need in Oklahoma for data-driven research and effective advocacy.”