MAPS 4 Diversion Hub construction set for 2024

The permanent home of the Oklahoma County Diversion Hub that provides options to jail for low-level offenders will begin construction in early 2024.

The $15 million project has been funded by MAPS 4 and a land contribution from the Arnall Family Foundation which is valued at $2 million.

Executive Director of the Diversion Hub Meagan Taylor said, ” We are obviously bursting at the seams, we have every single corridor filled with partner agencies and diversion hub staff. We are desperate for more space.”

Architects at Rees and Associates gave an update on the program and its aspirations. The building will span 30,435 square feet – more than three times the current operation at 220 NW 19th. Rees represents the scale of the diversion hub.

The two story building will be at a block just west of downtown along Linwood Blvd. between Klein and Ellison avenues. In a presentation to the city Rees presented the hub as a welcoming and comfortable space that will serve as a beacon of hope for clients.

Director of Design at Rees Associates Farooq Karim said that it is being developed on the assumption that clients may be in need of shelter, food and clothing. ” When clients are coming to the building, they typically have things with them, they have bicycles, animals, their belongings, so we start outside the building accommodating for that with bike racks and areas to store belongings.”

There are improvements over the current home such as a washing machine and dryer and a donation area for clothing and food.

Karim said, ” When clients come to the building, they do not have a pair of shoes, they may not have warm clothing, they may be hungry, and its hard to have conversations with you’re dealing with those stresses…when a person visits, the first thing that happens is they are taken to a place to eat.”

Integrated private areas have been designed to foster personalized interactions while still maintaining a sense of connection and transparency. The design of the building is to accommodate a collaborative approach to help clients navigate the criminal justice system to get back on track

Other features are a public training room, a kitchen, consultation and meeting rooms, a client computer lab, a mental health facility, and alternative courts that will have separate entries for afterhours appointments.

Senior project manager with Rees and Associates Rachel Bundy said the lobby is designed to hold up to 75 people but will allow visitors to maintain some privacy. She further said, ” They want them to feel comfortable, not to feel crowded if they need a little bit of personal space…there will be a variety of seating, and there are interior tools we are using to divide up the space while keeping it transparent and visible.”

The design comes from numerous meetings and presentations to the Oklahoma County Diversion Hub and its partners to make sure the new home is flexible enough to accommodate a growing mission and expansions to host additional partners.

At the time the program launched in 2019 Oklahoma had the highest incarceration rate in the U.S. Meagan Taylor, the Executive Director of the Hub, and a former prosecutor also said, ” We are leading the world in incarceration rates and not seeing any improvements, people get out, released at 3 a.m. and have no idea of what charges are filed and what to do next with bond  and everything else. The courts are not set up to help people navigate it successfully.”

The Diversion Hub will coordinate with TEEM (the education and employment ministry). Both offer similar services before trial but they have differing approaches. TEEM identifies people who can be bailed out of jail at no cost on the condition of agreeing to follow the group’s programs. 

At the Hub those wanting to use such services have to secure their own release first. In both cases people are provided case management that includes access to employment, substance abuse, mental health and other services as necessary with support to comply with attendance at court dates and payment schedules. 

The purpose is to provide intervention that will reduce the risk of participants ending up in prison. Taylor added, ” our goal is to fill gaps in the community, we look at who is entangled in the system.”

The Diversion Hub currently serves about 1,100 clients with a staff of 38 that is growing. Oklahoma still ranks high for incarceration, the third highest in the country. Of all those who were helped at the Hub in 2022 only 10.63% ended up with a new misdemeanor or felony.

Taylor is proud of the service they provide and stives for successful outcomes.

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