By William Drew, Tulsa | 10 comments
I attended the interim study report by Rep. Bobby Cleveland, R-Slaughterville, “Smart on Crime,” recently. I also attended another study by Sen. Wayne Shaw, R-Grove, “Aging Prison Population.” Both studies had impressive speakers and encouraging suggestions.
The wide range of ideas would help ease prison overcrowding and keep the public safe. The Department of Corrections announced that 28,000 men and women are incarcerated in Oklahoma, with a projected budget of $553 million for next fiscal year. We can’t afford to continue doing what we’re doing.
The Justice Reinvestment Initiative would be costly to start up again, but it has proved it works elsewhere. Texas has had great results, and closed a prison. Gov. Mary Fallin rejected funding parts of the JRI. She said Oklahoma would fund JRI training on its own.
The DOC was out of beds at the 26,000 inmate level. So, we are putting inmates in places and facilities that were not built for that purpose. Staffing levels are at 60 percent for corrections officers.
Something has to give. I suspect the next move by the governor and Legislature will be to contract with more private prisons. But that’s only going to increase the cost.
However, it will provide more campaign contributions for elected officials, which they don’t need, but will take anyway.