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2015 Legislative Preview: Crime and safety issues

Feb 1, 2015 | by Lynn Powell

Sentencing: At least two measures have been filed that would allow offenders convicted of crimes that require them to serve 85 percent of a sentence to begin earning credits on the front end. The credits would be applied once the offender serves 85 percent. Currently, the credits, which are used to reduce prison time, are accumulated after the offender completes 85 percent of the sentence, resulting in longer sentences. A measure filed last session failed to secure legislative approval. Lawmakers likely will not reduce the list of crimes for which an offender is required to serve 85 percent of the sentence. For years, lawmakers have added to the list, something which has contributed to the prison crowding problem.

Prison population and staffing: Lawmakers have yet to agree on a way to reduce the state’s prison population and increase the number of correctional officers. It is unlikely a significant dent in the prison population will be made as a result of legislation. It is also unlikely the Oklahoma Department of Corrections will get an appropriation that allows it to increase staff.

Executions: Sen. Anthony Sykes, R-Moore, has a measure, Senate Joint Resolution 31, that would put to a vote of the people a constitutional amendment that states methods of execution can be changed. “Any method of execution shall be allowed, unless prohibited by the U.S. Constitution,” according to the measure. The state gained international attention this spring after an execution did not go as planned.

Sentencing: At least two measures have been filed that would allow offenders convicted of crimes that require them to serve 85 percent of a sentence to begin earning credits on the front end. The credits would be applied once the offender serves 85 percent. Currently, the credits, which are used to reduce prison time, are accumulated after the offender completes 85 percent of the sentence, resulting in longer sentences. A measure filed last session failed to secure legislative approval. Lawmakers likely will not reduce the list of crimes for which an offender is required to serve 85 percent of the sentence. For years, lawmakers have added to the list, something which has contributed to the prison crowding problem.

JRI revisited: The Justice Reinvestment Initiative, a highly touted public-safety measure designed to slow the rate of prison growth, will get a new look. The measure was never fully implemented due to politics and funding. Gov. Mary Fallin, who signed the measure, believes some nonviolent offenders with drug and alcohol problems could be diverted from prison by using treatment programs.

Barbara Hoberock 405-528-2465

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