June 8, 2020
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Joe Dorman, CEO – Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy
Telephone: (405) 833-1117
OICA Names Rep. Mark Lawson “Children’s Representative of the Year”
OKLAHOMA CITY – After each session of the Oklahoma Legislature, the Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy (OICA) evaluates the work done by the Legislature.
The 2020 session of the Oklahoma Legislature was abbreviated due to the impact of COVID-19. Despite that, OICA CEO Joe Dorman said one state representative distinguished himself as a staunch advocate for Oklahoma’s children.
“State Rep. Mark Lawson fought for Oklahoma’s children with tenacity, creativity, and wisdom,” Dorman said. “For that reason, he has been named OICA’s ‘Children’s Representative of the Year.’ The citizens he serves in Creek and Tulsa counties have every reason to be proud of Representative Lawson.”
Lawson, a Republican from Sapulpa, introduced and advocated several measures relating to juvenile justice reform. The lawmaker passed and saw signed into law a bill to protect children 12 years of age or younger charged with a felony from being placed in a state juvenile detention facility unless all alternatives have been exhausted.
The bill – HB 1282 – also sets limits for 13- and 14-year-olds admitted to detention. The law is part of an overall reform of the state’s juvenile justice system. It passed both chambers of the Legislature with unanimous consent. The proposal is a conservative position to help lower the cost of repeat offenses by getting troubled kids the help they need.
“This bill requires the state to seek other alternatives for these children who commit adult crimes but who are much too young to be placed in detention facilities,” Lawson said. “They would only be placed in a juvenile center if no other alternative can be found for them and if their crime warrants such detention.”
Dorman said the new law is extremely important to help reduce the number of Adverse Childhood Experiences – also called ACEs – in the state. “Oklahoma has far too many ACEs affecting far too many children,” Dorman said. “The new law will make certain Oklahomans are safe and that children have a chance to recover from a minor misdeed, and our state is lucky to have a level-headed policy leader like Representative Lawson leading the way on this issue.”
OICA focuses on ACEs because of the lasting and negative effect they have on individuals throughout their lifetimes. Oklahoma children have the highest rates of ACEs in the nation, Dorman related. Also, Lawson introduced other children’s legislation that passed the House of Representatives but languished in the Senate due to the COVID-shortened session. The lawmaker said he would reintroduce them for the 2021 session of the Legislature.
Dorman said there was another reason this session special for Representative Lawson: his daughter was born during the session. Their new daughter, Ivy, joins Representative and Mrs. Lawson’s older son, Asher.
“Child issues are a priority for Representative Lawson,” Dorman concluded. “Besides thanking him for his work and congratulating him for this award, OICA is honored to congratulate him and his wife, Pam, on the birth of their daughter.”