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Bottomline: Tickets, please

Good-Friday Ache

In April 2012, a racially motivated shooting spree in north Tulsa rocked the city. Three died in the attacks; two were wounded. By the time Jesse Jackson flew in, our volatile history of racial tensions felt the full force of national-media scrutiny. Outlets like Los Angeles Times and NPR reported on the echoes that could be heard between the Good Friday shootings and the 1921 Race Riots. The shootings opened old wounds and raised questions about our progress toward racial reconciliation and how we are to finally address the poverty and crime that plagues the parts of Tulsa which lie north of Admiral Boulevard.

Months later, at the dawn of a  new year, Tulsa County District Attorney Tim Harris announced he would seek the death penalty for the defendants, Jacob Carl England and Alvin Lee Watts.

The men accepted plea bargains that would spare them execution. In the county courthouse a week before Christmas, the men confessed to shooting the five victims. Watts tearfully apologized to the families gathered. Each defendant was sentenced to life in prison five times over. The Dec. 19 edition of The Oklahoma Eagle, a Tulsa newspaper headquartered in Greenwood, hit stands with the headline: “Justice for the Good Friday Patriots.”

Bottom line: After the initial whirl of media attention and let’s-make-this-right posturing, the Good Friday Shootings story dropped off the front pages. We still have a lot of work to do to mend our city’s racial divide. Rest in peace, patriots.

Women in prison: Violence doesn’t stop at booking

A federal report named Mabel Bassett Correction Center the worst for sexual violence in female prisons. The report found incidents of inmate-on-inmate sexual violence at the McLoud facility were double the national average.

Through anonymous surveys, 15.3 percent of Mabel Bassett inmates reported some form of sexual abuse or rape by another inmate (2012 Bureau of Justice statistics), a figure higher than that of any other institution nationwide.

Already, Oklahoma incarcerates more women per capita than any other state, at a rate nearly twice the national average The Department of Justice scheduled hearings on prison rape for Jan. 8-9, but Oklahoma officials declined to testify. The reason? Currently, the beleaguered agency has its hands tied by a federal lawsuit. In July, 11 female prisoners accused three Mabel Bassett guards of sexual assault. In the suit, prison administrators and state ODOC officials were named as defendants accused of allowing the assaults to occur through negligence and faulty surveillance cameras.

Bottom line: While the overall U.S. prison population dropped for the third straight year, the number of incarcerated Oklahomans increased, according to Bureau of Justice statistics for 2012. Oklahoma has led the nation with the highest female incarceration rate since 2011. Our prison population increased by 3.4 percent in 2012, per Oklahoma Department of Corrections end-of-year reports. To manage the scandalous lawsuit, influx of new prisoners, ongoing overcrowding and now safety issues, the ODOC received a one percent budget increase for FY 2014. No matter how you add up these numbers, they won’t equal justice.

Tickets, please

Ticket sales placed two Tulsa icons among the top 40 venues in the world for 2013 per Pollstar, an industry-tracking group.

Cain’s Ballroom was ranked 21st among club venues with capacities less than 3,000, selling more than 100,000 tickets last year. The historic Tulsa club had never surpassed that sales figure before, the Tulsa World reported. No other Oklahoma club made the list.

The BOK Center was ranked 34th in the world (13th nationally) after selling 426,536 tickets in 2013. Last year’s star-studded concert lineup featured acts from Paul McCartney to Taylor Swift. The BOK Center Oklahoma City’s Chesapeake Arena, which ranked 69th worldwide.

Bottom line: There is a nightlife in the 918—that’s to say, we buy lots of tickets to arena shows and concerts in our most famous hometown venue. Now let’s find a way to use these hot spots to bring more free- and low-cost events to Tulsa.

Headline Roundup

Okie antics often translate well into amazing, poetic headlines. A top tragi-odd headline is absurd with a hefty dose of sad and a dash of WTF. Here are a few recent winners:

“Man arrested after reportedly trying to eat marijuana cigarette,” ran in Tulsa World, Jan. 12. An Oklahoma Highway patrolman arrested a Tulsa man of should-know-better age after he noticed a “green leafy substance” in his mouth. He admitted to eating a joint after OHP pulled him over for a faulty brake light, per the arrest report. He also ‘fessed up to toking at his friend’s house.

“Lawmaker: Don’t punish kids for chewing Pop Tarts into guns,” read the headline for an only-in-Oklahoma Associated Press story in mid-January. Oklahoma legislator Sally Kern introduced a new measure that would prevent schoolchildren from being punished for chewing breakfast pastries into the shape of a gun. The Common Sense Zero Tolerance Act, as it’s called, would protect students from punishment for possession of small-toy weapons, using their fingers or hands to simulate a weapon, drawing pictures of weapons, or wearing clothes that “support or advance Second Amendment rights or organizations.” It’s such a relief to know our ongoing public-education issues are being addressed, one important issue at a time.

“Man allegedly kills stepdad with atomic wedgie,” reported ABC News Jan. 9. Newsfeeds everywhere have buzzed with talk of Oklahoma’s atomic-wedgie fatality. Pottawatomie County resident Brad Davis was arrested on a first-degree murder charge after an alcohol-fueled fight with his stepfather turned deadly. According to reports, Davis’s affidavit states his stepdad “spoke ill” of his mother and then “swung first.” He hit him several times before he issued the 58-year-old man the lethal punishment. He pulled the elastic waistband of the man’s underwear over his head, which left a ligature mark around his neck. The Oklahoma Medical Examiner Office determined the cause of death in this case was blunt force trauma and/or asphyxiation.