Gov. Mary Fallin urged lawmakers to take additional steps to reduce Oklahoma’s escalating incarceration costs after she signed one such measure aimed at reducing prison overcrowding.
“These reforms are targeted at nonviolent offenders, many of whom suffer from addiction and mental health issues,” Fallin said Tuesday. “We simply have to start focusing on treatment and reintegrating these offenders, which research has shown will result in lower crime rates and lower rates of recidivism.”
The bill that she signed Tuesday requires risk and needs assessments for offenders and individualized case plans for them with hopes of reducing repeat offenses.
Fallin signed measures last month that require judges and other court professionals to receive training on handling domestic and substance cases.
A criminal justice task force created by Fallin last year recommended 12 criminal justice bills for state lawmakers to consider. Three were approved before the Legislature adjourned on May 26.
“While disappointed with the lack of progress this session, I remain committed to criminal justice reform and will continue the push to make Oklahoma smarter on how we confront crime,” Fallin said. “Creating an epidemic of broken families by incarcerating mothers and fathers who are convicted of nonviolent crimes and struggling with addiction is unacceptable, and is not keeping with Oklahoma values.”
Fallin said Oklahoma’s overall incarceration rate is the second-highest in the country, and the state leads the nation in female incarceration.
“We are facing a dire financial situation to the tune of an additional $2 billion to incarcerate even more Oklahomans,” the governor said.
She said the proposals that the task force recommended do not involve violent offenders, sex offenders and offenses in which defendants are required to serve 85 percent of their sentences before they are eligible for parole.