Oklahoma has set a new state record in the number of prison inmates, the State Department of Corrections announced Wednesday.
Housing Oklahoma's now 62,000 prison inmates accounts for a major portion of the state budget. And right now, the state has more people behind bars than ever before; many of them for non-violent drug offenses and many of them struggling with mental health issues.
"Prison is not the place to get appropriate care. You aren't going to get the care that you need in there. You can treat people more inexpensively and better by dealing with them of the front-end, before they end up in the back of a police car. Before they end up in prison," said Jeff Dismukes with the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse.
Criminal justice reform advocates say prison is no place for many of the inmates behind bars in Oklahoma.
Carrie McCoy is a recovering meth and opioid addict. She says prison is like college for criminals, and often it feeds their addiction.
"You get there and you meet people. You have better connections and are doing more criminal activity than you already do. And the criminal activity fuels the drug addiction and it's a hand in hand thing," said McCoy.
News 9 reached out to the department of corrections. A spokesman says no one is available to comment on the issue on camera.