In Tulsa’s DA race, challenger wants to shift criminal justice conversation

Daniel Nichanian

Jenny Proehl-Day, the Democratic nominee for Tulsa County district attorney, begins answering an ACLU questionnaire by noting that she is a former prosecutor: “I contributed to the issue of mass incarceration and now I am trying to be a part of the solution,” she writes.  “My entire goal as the DA is to bring criminal justice reform to Tulsa County and to Oklahoma,” she says in a later response.

In an interview she gave to the podcast “Citizens of Tulsa,” Proehl-Day further explains that the criminal justice system should be organized around the idea that people are rehabilitable. “It’s personal because I think that it’s important for people to look at offenders as more than the crimes that they committed, and more as they’re human beings and they have a history and their past led them to come into the criminal justice system,” she says.

Proehl-Day is running against District Attorney Steve Kunzweiler, a Republican who is seeking a second term. Kunzweiler has opposed past criminal justice reform efforts. In 2016, he spoke out against State Question 780, the ballot proposal that made drug possession into a misdemeanor and raised the threshold of felony theft. Proehl-Day, meanwhile, says that she would limit the use of money bail, implement a unit to review convictions, and not seek life without parole for juveniles.

While Kunzweiler is favored in a county that Donald Trump easily carried in 2016, Proehl-Day frames her candidacy in part as an opportunity to spark a new sort of dialogue. “What I’ve gone through is so much more common than district attorneys would like you to believe,” she tells “Citizens of Tulsa,” referring to family members’ struggle with addiction and mental health. “So I think it’s really important to have these conversations because it’s affecting more people than it’s not.”