Since December, six inmates have escaped from the John Lilley Correctional Center in Boley. The latest was Jimmy Fields, who was reported missing Monday afternoon.
“If we don't do something about the staffing issues in our correctional facilities, the federal courts could come in and take us over,” said Rep. Scott Inman-D Minority leader, stressing the need for reform.
Pretty much everyone at the State Capitol agreed something needs to be done and they seem to have agreed on what that is. The debate has become how and when.
Inman said a big part of the solution is treating non-violent prisoners, not incarcerating them.
“We could take them out of the prison system and put them into rehabilitation programs,” said Inman.
If that sounded very familiar, it's because that was exactly what Governor Mary Fallin said was a priority during her inaugural address last week.
“They need treatment, they need supervision,” said Fallin.
Tuesday, the governor pointed to new statistics from the Oklahoma Statistical Analysis Center that showed last year, Oklahoma incarcerated 2,935 first-time, non-violent offenders, compared to 1,842 violent offenders.
The state already signed a plan into law to deal with this issue called the ‘Judicial Reinvestment Initiative,' or JRI. But the governor said it's not working well enough.
“We got to do a better job of educating people within the system, whether it's judges, our district attorneys our legislators.”
So the governor issued an executive order to set up a committee to implement JRI and that was where the debate started.
“The plan is there, the blue print is there,” said Inman. “We do not need to study this issue any longer.”
But Governor Fallin said the committee needs to be created to get the process moving.
“Figure out what the road blocks have been, get people on board to implement this policy,” said Governor Fallin.
The committee is expected to start meeting next month.
Fields was located Tuesday afternoon.