405 Magazine’s Woman of the Year award is designed to honor a woman whose achievements over the past year have fueled groundbreaking progress. No one fits that description better than Jane Hamm Lerum.
The daughter of oil and gas entrepreneur Harold Hamm and philanthropist Sue Ann Arnall, Lerum, while accustomed to being in the public eye, carries herself with disarming grace and humility. Her experience as a court-appointed special advocate in Los Angeles piqued her interest in criminal justice and led her to begin work with the beleaguered Oklahoma County Jail when she and husband, Tom, moved back to Oklahoma from California in 2018.
Lerum was appointed the county’s first deputy commissioner and Criminal Justice Reform Policy Director. In her new role, she found a way to push through the creation of the Oklahoma County Jail Trust that would assume oversight of jail from the Oklahoma Department of Corrections. Although many in the past had tried and failed to bring about that change, Lerum, was able to accomplish the move in just six months.
In addition to her work with Oklahoma County, Lerum recently helped establish the OKC Black Justice Fund. This fund aims to achieve racial equity through a number of different grant initiatives. Established this spring, the fund to-date has raised close to $300,000 in donations.
The Lerums live in Oklahoma City, but split their time between here and Carmel Valley, California, where they own and operate Joullian Vineyards.
IN HER WORDS
What draws you to criminal justice reform?
The issues facing our criminal justice system have a major impact on people and families in our community. I am drawn to work on criminal justice reform because I have seen firsthand the negative effects these issues can have on families, and I believe that through working to alleviate them I can help people and improve our community. I first encountered the criminal justice system while serving as a court appointed special advocate (CASA) for a foster child in Los Angeles. As a CASA, I saw the inefficiencies of our criminal justice system and the ripple effect it had on foster children whose parents were involved or trapped in the criminal justice system.
How does your upbringing influence what you do now?
I was very fortunate growing up with parents that were, and are, immensely successful and who chose to use their positions and resources to give back and help others in a variety of ways. I am grateful that they purposefully worked to instill in their children this work ethic and desire to give back, and I credit that effort in bringing me to where I am now in my career. Their example has been an inspiration for me to work hard and use whatever associated influence I have to better our community and give back.
Where do you go from here? Any aspirations for the future?
My work in county government and criminal justice reform inspired me to seek a formal education in law. I am excited to be starting my first year of law school at Oklahoma University College of Law this fall. After school, I hope to continue working on bettering our community through public service and philanthropy.
What advice would you give to a young woman who is just starting to see her potential?
Seek mentorship and do not be afraid to ask someone you trust to mentor you. Most people are more than happy to invest their time and share valuable lessons with you if you show the initiative and the desire to learn. They can help you see things from a different perspective because they have likely been in your shoes before or they know someone who has. Judge Cindy Truong has been a mentor of mine and she is constantly supporting, encouraging and challenging me to push myself outside of my comfort zone in order to achieve things I did not think I could do.