Republican lawmaker Doug Cox tricked legislature into exempting "Christian" forced-labor camps from regulation

Christian Alcoholics & Addicts in Recovery is a scandal-haunted forced-labor program that addicted convicts in Oklahoma were diverted to; they were put into back-breaking, unsafe labor for long hours with little or no pay and no care or compensation when they were maimed on the job. Rather than meaningful addiction counseling, prisoners were directed to pray and work.

CAAIR operated with impunity for years, escaping regulation in 2013 that was spurred by the deaths of inmates in a similar program. CAAIR was specifically exempted from regulation thanks to the intervention of Oklahoma State Rep Dr Doug Cox (918-786-5381), who tricked the bill's sponsors into carving out a loophole for CAAIR by endorsing it without revealing that he sat on CAAIR's board of directors.

Cox did not reveal his personal interest in CAAIR during the debate or vote, either, in violation of the Oklahoma constitution and its House of Reps' legislative rules, which mandate disclosure of "personal or private interest" and abstention from votes where there is a conflict of interest.

The bill's co-sponsors say they would not have included an exemption for CAAIR if they had know about Cox's conflict of interest.

The original 2013 bill would have regulated a variety of drug and alcohol rehabilitation programs. Cox’s amendment exempted standalone recovery centers that didn’t already offer some services that required regulation.

Today, because of Cox’s intervention, CAAIR and many other recovery programs in Oklahoma remain uncertified and exempt from oversight. The state Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services is not required to regulate the programs or inspect them. It has no power to shut them down.

The bill did not specify what requirements recovery centers would have to follow – it left it up to the department to do that. Other types of facilities under the department’s control face regular inspections and are required to hire licensed counselors and staff.

Rehab work camps were about to be regulated. Then a friend stepped in [Amy Julia Harris and Shoshana Walter/Reveal]

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