Mar. 2, 2021

Prompted by the racial justice reckoning across the nation and the subsequent reallocation of a portion of the Norman Police Department’s budget, I decided to investigate what racial disparities were present in the NPD’s data.

Starting in August 2020, I cleaned and analyzed NPD’s publicly available data, using RStudio and Google Sheets, on contacts, arrests, citations, arrests and use of force. I found stark disparities for Norman’s black community in comparison to their population, and interviewed residents of color, city officials, department members and national and local experts on what those disparities might mean and what can be done to make Norman policing more equitable.

*photos and visualizations by Jana Hayes

Courtroom Chairs

Mar. 15, 2021

My first story published as a freelancer, I spent six weeks interviewing public defenders, district attorneys, researchers and other stakeholders in the criminal justice community to learn how the pandemic was impacting the court systems and the job of public defenders specifically.

I found that most courts in the country are experiencing severe backlogs, and many public defenders perceive there is a lack of empathy from prosecutors towards those they are putting in jail and at risk of contracting Covid-19. There are also concerns about the constitutional right to a speedy trial, with many states yet to return to conducting jury trials and some considering suspending speedy trial statutes for years to catch up on the backlog.


Aug. 21, 2020

Almost 20 years after the unanimous passage of the Prison Rape Elimination Act, experts debate whether the first-of-its-kind law is capable of ending sexual abuse in prisons, including juvenile detention facilities. 

This story, in which I was a lead writer in a reporting team of 4, explores why young people in detention are vulnerable to sexual abuse, the flaws in PREA, and what some advocates believe is the best way to prevent sexual abuse in juvenile detention facilities. 


Aug 21, 2020

Up to 20% of youth in the juvenile justice system identify as LGBTQ, compared with 4% to 6% of the general youth population, and the majority of LGBTQ youth in detention are kids of color.

Experts say transgender and gender-nonconforming kids are especially at risk of ill-treatment because they challenge social expectations of masculinity and femininity. Very few states protect gender identity under statute law for youth in the justice system.

This investigation highlights the story of young Allie Reyes, a transgender woman who spent the latter part of her teenage years in the New Hampshire child welfare and juvenile justice systems.


April 22, 2020

In a meeting of almost 900 other NFL agents, Kelli Masters stood out as one of the few women.

It was her first NFL Scouting Combine as an agent, and as she was preparing to break into exciting but unfamiliar territory, Masters was approached by a successful male agent for some unsolicited advice: She didn’t belong there, because women never make it as agents. 

Masters said she would prove him wrong.

She did. Read her story to find out how.


Dec 8, 2019

Taylor Schackmann was 19 when she entered into a sexual relationship with her professor, academic advisor, and director that would damage her in ways she never could have anticipated. Years later—after nearly a decade of processing what had happened to her—she reported the relationship to OU's Title IX office, who found him in violation of multiple sexual misconduct policies. Read on for her story, and a discussion on consent in the #MeToo era.


Feb 28, 2020

2020 signified a great milestone in America's history: 100 years of suffrage for women. It was a long and hard fight, and an even longer one to ensure votes for women of color. This story highlights the history of suffrage in Oklahoma, and one woman who became a martyr for the cause 100 years ago. It also looks at what change is still needed to day to ensure equal voting rights for all.

*photos by Jana Hayes


Jan 12, 2020

OU School of Drama professor and former director Tom Orr was placed on administrative leave at the beginning of the spring semester due to unspecified allegations. There has yet to have been anything said about when or if he will be returning, or what resulted of the investigation. But it's not the first time he's been accused, or investigated.

Read here for my first story documenting sexual harassment allegations against him. Read here for the story I wrote through a records request, in which I detail emails between him and another former professor accused of sexual harassment, that shows he had 'no intentions of punishing' the professor for indiscretions (these two pieces brought me 2nd and 1st place, respectively, in the 2019 Oklahoma Press Association Awards in-depth reporting category).


Oct 3, 2019

Gisel Gutiérrez lay in a hospital bed with her computer resting against the crisp sheets, turning in homework within hours of giving birth to her son Leonardo.

A junior at the University of Oklahoma, Gutiérrez had been told by one of her professors that she would not be able to make up assignments missed when she was giving birth. Gutiérrez accepted this and quickly had to divide her attention between her newborn son and her biology class.

Here, I tell the stories of four women who have experienced getting pregnant and raising a child all while continuing their education.


July 17, 2019

Rebecca Ponkilla still remembers the last moment she saw her daughter.

She hugged Ida Beard inside their El Reno home as her daughter’s friends waited for her outside. Beard, 29, walked to a friend's house just blocks away, but never returned home.

A member of the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes, Beard is one of many Native American women and girls across the country who have vanished without a trace.

The missing and murdered indigenous women epidemic is one many are only just learning about. This story explores the grief of the families experiencing the loss of a loved one and what one Oklahoma lawmaker decided to do to help.


Feb 6, 2019

After a policy change from OU's bursar office, students with an outstanding balance could not enroll for classes at all until it was paid off. This left many to drop out, and for international students the threat of deportation loomed.

In this story I highglighted the struggles of one of those international students, and soon there was a GoFundMe page set up for them and others in need. Within weeks she had been given the money to pay off the bursar so she could enroll in her last semester of classes.


Jan 24, 2019

“We’re tired, but we will not stop fighting. Your silence is deafening — we hear it loud and clear. If you’re not speaking up right now, when your students of color don’t feel safe on this campus, we have a problem. It is on you. Your silence is deafening.”

After two racist incidents taking place within a week in the OU community, students marched across campus, calling for institutional change. Covering this march and this evolving story has helped me to see and then show others how far reaching the issue of racism is, and how much work there still is to do.