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I am a high school English teacher in an urban high school in Oklahoma City. I am a member of the American Federation of Teachers, Local 2309. I am a Democrat, a union activist and a worker for social justice. I also am a Christian (Congregationalist). I play chess and coach our school chess team.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater speaks at the OCDP Friday Luncheon

Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater
Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater talked about how he has worked to expand Drug and Mental Health Courts as well as relating a moving narration of his work to end gang violence in the county during his talk on August 8th at the Oklahoma County Democratic Party Luncheon. The luncheon is a regular function of the OCDP held at the Boulevard Cafeteria in midtown Oklahoma City.

DA Prater told the over 50 people gathered that his predecessor only had a little over 200 participants in the OK County Drug Court program, a program created by the legislature to provide alternatives to incarceration for drug offenders. "My office expanded the Drug Court to over 600 participants," Prater stated. "We hope to soon have 720 participants in the near future." He challenged those present to visit a "Drug Court Graduation" sometime. "Graduates talk about getting and holding jobs, reconciling marriages, and healing families with the help of Drug Court." He also hopes to expand the Mental Health Court noting that the Oklahoma County jail currently houses more of the mentally ill than any institution in Oklahoma.

Prater also discussed his work dealng with gang violence in Oklahoma County through his work with a former gang lord turned pastor whose ministry works with those in Oklahoma City gangs. The pastor arranged for Prater to meet with gang leaders in at his church. David Prater came to the meeting alone and unarmed. "The gang members had posted 'look-outs' around the building who sent text messages to the leaders inside the church when I drove up. The look-outs were alerting the leaders about whether or not I had come with police to arrest them." The gang leaders, the pastor, and David talked for over 2 hours together. "At first, the talk was very confrontational, but it gradually changed. I talked with them about how we can end the gang violence that has plagued the county." Prater was moved try this unusual and personally risky step after an 8 year old child was shot and permanently impaired due to a gang revenge attack.

DA Prater credits his approach as being instrumental in preventing some gang "turf wars" and revenge killings that threatened to break out in the county. He plans to work with schools to try to deal with the problem of school drop outs, a prime source of new members for the gangs. "When I asked the gang leaders at the meeting how can we best work to curb gang participation, the answer one gave was, 'Keep the kids in school.' "

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