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Oklahoma Victims Compensation Program Disproportionately Denies Funds for Black Victims

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Tiras Johnson, age 23, was unarmed when he was shot and killed in Tulsa, Oklahoma. His family was devastated by his death, and they were struggling to pay for Tiras’ funeral. Like many victims’ families, Tiras’ mother applied for financial compensation through the Oklahoma Crime Victims Compensation Act in order to cover his funeral costs, but instead received a surprising response in the mail.

The letter, addressed to Tiras’ mother, Netarsha, explained that her claim was ineligible for funds because of implied contributory conduct — that is, that the incident “appeared to be gang-related” and “[Tiras] exercised poor judgment by choosing to be a gang member.” All compensation was denied. “We extend our condolences for the loss of your loved one,” it read. […]

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