Governor Mary Fallin today signed the remaining criminal justice reform bill that was the result of recommendations from her Oklahoma Justice Reform Task Force, saying it was disappointing other proposed measures that would have had more of a direct impact on Oklahoma’s over-capacity prison population stalled in the House of Representatives.
Those measures addressed the governor's criminal justice reform task force report that said without reform, Oklahoma is on pace to add 7,218 inmates over the next 10 years. That would require three new prisons and cost the state an additional $1.9 billion in capital expenditures and operating costs.
“One of the bills, which was held up this session, was House Bill 2281. It included important sentencing changes to low-level property crimes, and would have had a particularly important impact on our female prison population,” says Fallin, “without jeopardizing public safety, with these bills, we could have implemented smart, data-driven solutions to safely and prudently fix our criminal justice system.”
To continue her earlier criminal justice reform efforts and to address the high number of nonviolent offenders in Oklahoma’s prisons, Fallin last year established the task force, which developed data-driven policy recommendations to improve public safety, control corrections spending and improve recidivism rates for consideration during this year’s legislative session, which adjourned May 26.
The task force recommended 12 bills. Three received legislative approval.
“Violent offenders, sex offenders, and offenders convicted of 85 percent crimes are excluded from any sentencing reforms,” Fallin says. “these reforms are targeted at nonviolent offenders, many of whom suffer from addiction and mental health issues. We simply have to start focusing on treatment and reintegrating these offenders, which research has shown will result in lower crime rates and lower rates of recidivism.”
Fallin today signed Senate Bill (SB) 603, which requires all offenders receive a validated risk and needs assessment that will guide providers to programs available to offenders, and mandates the Department of Corrections to create an individualized case plan for each offender.
The governor earlier signed SB 604 and House Bill (HB) 2284. SB 604 provides training for law enforcement relating to domestic violence victim safety at the pretrial stage. HB 2284 provides training for public defenders, district attorneys, and judges; training is to include substance abuse, behavioral health, and impact and dynamics of domestic violence.
“Our prisons are way over capacity, and our prison population is expected to grow by 25 percent in the next 10 years,”
Fallin adds, “Oklahoma’s overall incarceration rate is the second-highest in the country, and we lead the nation in female incarceration – incarcerating women at two-and-a-half times the national average. By 2018, we will have the highest incarceration rate in the country."
“Some have said we are doing this too fast, that it took Texas six years to accomplish what we are trying to do in two,” the governor says. “Let’s not forget, we are facing a dire financial situation to the tune of an additional $2 billion to incarcerate even more Oklahomans. While disappointed with the lack of progress this session, I remain committed to criminal justice reform and will continue the push to make Oklahoma smarter on how we confront crime. Creating an epidemic of broken families by incarcerating mothers and fathers who are convicted of nonviolent crimes and struggling with addiction is unacceptable and is not keeping with Oklahoma values.”
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