Oklahoma’s incarceration rate is among the highest in the nation and spending on corrections has increased 41 percent over the past decade, yet crime rates have fallen less than most other states. This suggests that additional public safety benefits are not being generated despite Oklahoma’s increased investment in corrections. To address this challenge, the Oklahoma Legislature passed House Bill 2131, a bill designed to make the criminal justice system more efficient and cost-effective. The bill was signed into law in May 2011.
The combined elements of the bill are anticipated to ease the fiscal and social strains caused by Oklahoma’s prison overcrowding. However, a comprehensive analysis of the criminal justice system is needed to determine the best way to pursue additional reforms. Policymakers are interested in conducting an extensive evaluation to identify additional policies for holding offenders accountable in a way that uses tax dollars efficiently and, most importantly, improves public safety.
To address these issues, Governor Mary Fallin, Speaker of the House Kris Steele, Senate President Pro Tempore Brian Bingman and Supreme Court Justice James Edmondson expressed interest in employing a justice reinvestment strategy, which is a data-driven approach to reduce corrections spending and reinvest a portion of the savings generated in strategies that will increase public safety. To this end, Oklahoma sought assistance from the Bureau of Justice Assistance, a division of the U.S. Department of Justice, and the Pew Center on the States.
The state leaders agreed to establish a bipartisan, interbranch working group comprised of leading state officials which would receive intensive technical assistance from the Council of State Governments Justice Center in partnership with the Pew Center on the States. The CSG JusticeCenter will assist the working group in analyzing data and developing a comprehensive set of policy options.
From 2011 to 2012, the CSG Justice Center worked with Oklahoma state leaders to develop data-driven, consensus-based policy options designed to reduce corrections spending and increase public safety. CSG Justice Center experts interviewed stakeholders across the criminal justice system and conducted a comprehensive analysis of Oklahoma’s criminal justice data to identify challenges facing the state:
- The national violent crime rate fell five times faster than Oklahoma’s violent crime rate in the previous decade; murder rates actually increased in the state’s two largest cities
- More than half of inmates were released from prison without supervision, and supervision determinations were not informed by risk assessment
- Over the last 10 years, growth in Oklahoma’s prison population outpaced the state’s overall population growth; over the previous 10 years while corrections appropriations rose 30 percent
House Bill 3052 was signed into law in 2012. Oklahoma’s justice reinvestment legislation includes several policy options designed to address theses challenges. Among other things, the legislation:
- Establishes a new state-funded grant program to assist local law enforcement agencies in implementing data-drive strategies to reduce violent crime
- Institutes a pre-sentence risk and needs screening process to help guide sentencing decisions about treatment and supervision
- Mandates supervision for all adults released from prison
- Creates more cost-efficient and meaningful responses to supervision violations
These policies mitigated the state’s growth in prison population by 1,759 and are projected to save up to $120 million over 10 years. Oklahoma reinvested $3.7 million in FY 2013 including $2 million in funding for the grant program to reduce violent crime. At Oklahoma’s request, the CSG Justice Center will continue to provide technical assistance for implementation of these policies.Information on this page was taken from JRI Oklahoma and the CSG Justice Center.