State Legislature Passes Criminal Justice Reform Bills
OKLAHOMA CITY - The state legislature passed seven bills aimed at reducing the prison population and saving Oklahomans money. But it’s just the beginning.
Combined, the bills are expected to reduce the state’s prison population by about 9,200 inmates. It’s a good start, but Oklahoma’s prisons are still bursting at the seams.
The State House of Representatives took up two bills and the Senate took up five. All passed with bipartisan support. The goal is to reduce sentences for non-violent and elderly inmates and focus more on mental health and drug abuse treatment, instead of incarceration.
“The overall goal was to get people treatment to get people to be productive citizens of society and not locked up and costing the state a lot of money,” said Senator Greg Treat (R) Majority Floor Leader.
Criminal justice reform backers say this is a good step, but “This is significantly watered down from the recommendations that came out of the governor’s task force,” said Andrew Speno with the organization Right on Crime.
Speno said he wants to see more meaningful change. “Increase parole numbers for non-violent offenders, have more reasonable diversionary programs like drug courts, veterans courts, mental health courts for people with addiction issues. They get better outcomes at a much lower cost.”
“It doesn’t drastically reduce the population today, we’re still about 113-percent capacity, it changes the trajectory in the future,” said Treat.
The bills that passed Tuesday did not include funding for mental health and substance abuse treatments. Senate leaders say funding will be tackled in bills to be presented in the coming weeks.