Oklahoma CURE

Ensuring that prisons are used only for those who absolutely must be incarcerated and that prisoners have all the resources they need to turn their lives around.
GET INVOLVED

Connect with us

JOIN THE CAMPAIGN

Are two years really needed to examine justice issues in Oklahoma?

Jan 19, 2015 | by Lynn Powell

Our excitement about Gov. Mary Fallin forming a high-level committee to guide criminal justice reform efforts is tempered by the fact the group will have two years to issue its recommen-dations.
A news release from the governor’s office says the committee “is to present its findings to the governor and the legislative leaders by Dec. 31, 2016.” So that’s the drop-dead date, and it’s certainly possible the committee will get to the finish line before then. But does anyone want to take that bet?

By The Oklahoman Editorial Board | January 19, 2015

 

Our excitement about Gov. Mary Fallin forming a high-level committee to guide criminal justice reform efforts is tempered by the fact the group will have two years to issue its recommen-dations.

 

A news release from the governor’s office says the committee “is to present its findings to the governor and the legislative leaders by Dec. 31, 2016.” So that’s the drop-dead date, and it’s certainly possible the committee will get to the finish line before then. But does anyone want to take that bet?

Fallin is seeking better ways to treat nonviolent offenders with substance abuse problems and mental health issues. Amen! Oklahoma has a large population who struggle with those issues, and they contribute greatly to people winding up in prison. For example, 44 percent of nonviolent admissions from 2005 to 2012 were drug related.

 

The committee includes Fallin, the attorney general, the Senate president pro tem, the House speaker, the head of the Department of Corrections and the head of the state’s mental health agency, or their designees. They ought to consider adding a representative from the District Attorneys Council, as prosecutors’ insight could prove invaluable.

 

The committee already has plenty of data it can reference, which should help quicken its work. Those who helped get the Justice Reinvestment Initiative approved by the Legislature in 2012 provided reams of information about the need for, and benefits of, alternative sentencing options. In addition, Fallin last summer tasked a Harvard graduate fellow to dig into JRI, many pieces of which haven’t been implemented. His report could answer many of the committee’s questions.

House Minority Leader Scott Inman, D-Del City, says proper funding and implementation of JRI is what’s needed, not “kicking the can down the road for two more years.” Our hope is that this exercise doesn’t last anywhere near that long. It certainly shouldn’t have to, given the foundation already in plac