OKLAHOMA CITY – Governor Mary Fallin today announced she will extend the deadline for her justice reform task force to provide more time to strengthen its proposals.
The governor will modify an executive order that had previously called for the Oklahoma Justice Reform Task Force’s work to be complete by Thursday, Dec. 15.
“To deliver the type of significant improvement Oklahoma needs, I am asking the task force to take the achievable, responsible ideas it already has a step further,” said Fallin. “The task force already has ways to save thousands of prison beds while increasing mental health treatment and public safety, and I want it to make those good ideas even better over the next month.”
The Oklahoma Justice Reform Task Force has been developing data-driven policy recommendations to improve public safety, control corrections spending and improve recidivism rates for consideration during the 2017 legislative session. The task force includes law enforcement officers, prosecutors, judges, members of the business community, victim advocates, mental health and addiction professionals, and legislators. It has been receiving technical assistance from two national criminal justice experts – Crime and Justice Institute and the Pew Charitable Trusts.
“I am hearing increasing interest from legislators and community leaders about continuing to move the ball on criminal justice reform, and I expect this task force to deliver the bold ideas Oklahoma needs to do that,” Fallin said. “We can do better in dealing with nonviolent, low offenders who have mental health conditions or who are addicted to drugs or alcohol with appropriate treatment, rather than felony prosecution and long-term incarceration.”
Oklahoma has the second- highest imprisonment rate in the country. It has the highest rate for women – a ranking the state has held since 1991.
The task force has concluded that Oklahoma’s current prison population greatly exceeds capacity, posing problems for prison staff and reducing the ability to rehabilitate offenders, 94 percent of whom return to the community. The task force has also found that if no state action is taken to constrain prison growth, the prison population during the next 10 years will increase by 25 percent, more than 7,000 people, and require three more prisons to be built or contracted.
The Oklahoma Justice Reform Task Force’s recommendations will build upon the criminal justice reform legislation the Legislature passed and Fallin signed into law earlier this year. The recommendations will also follow voter approval of State Questions 780 and 781 in November. SQ 81 will reduce the penalties for some nonviolent crimes.
“Smart, conservative states such as Texas, Utah, Georgia, Kentucky and South Dakota are already headed this direction; Oklahoma voters have already headed this direction, and we, the elected officials, need to do the same,” Fallin said.
The task force will deliver its recommendations before the start of the 2017 legislative session, which begins Feb. 6.