As of 2018, Oklahoma has the highest per capita prison incarceration rate in the world and growing. In addition, the state incarcerates women and black people at a higher rate than anywhere else.
Now, the ACLU says they have a plan to cut the state's prison population in half by 2025.
The ACLU says their reforms could save taxpayers about $615 million - money that could be used for mental health programs and education to help people from ending up in jail in the first place.
“We can’t just not do anything,” said Nicole McAfee is heading up the ACLU of Oklahoma's Campaign for Smart Justice.
McAfee says they estimate the reforms would reduce Oklahoma's prison population by more than 17,306 people by offering offenders alternatives to prison, like expanded treatment programs and care for mental health disorders.
The biggest dent in the prison population would be drug crimes. The reforms call for reducing the time served for distribution by 60% and ending all admissions for drug possession.
For all other crimes, the ACLU proposes for reducing the amount of time people serve in prisons and the number of people entering prison in the first place.
“Oklahoma across the board has some the harshest and longest sentences of any state in the country and even if we get to 50% reduction and that puts us on par with where most other states are now,” said McAfee
Brian Hermanson, the president of the Oklahoma District Attorney's Association however says district attorneys and judges already work with offenders on alternatives to incarceration. He says most of the people who are in jail right now are repeat offenders and letting them out early would just a shorten the amount of time before someone else is a victim.