Criminal Justice Reform in Oklahoma

Problem

Oklahoma currently has the second highest imprisonment rate in the country and since 1991, it has had the highest rate of imprisonment among women. Its prison population is projected to grow by 25% in the next ten years, reaching over 35,700 beds. The state’s prisons are already over-capacity, and Oklahoma will have to build or lease three new prisons, two for men and one for women, to cope with this growth.

Locking up these offenders comes at a great cost to the state: Oklahoma currently spends half a billion dollars annually on corrections, and the projected growth of the prison system will cost taxpayers $1.2 billion in capital expenditures and an additional $700 million in operating costs over 10 years.

Solution

In 2018, Oklahoma passed several criminal justice reforms that include:

In 2020, Oklahoma introduced a new bill which would force the Department of Corrections (DOC) to reevaluate its inmate rehabilitation plans each year. In addition, Oklahoma introduced legislation that would mandate the DOC to develop a plan of action for each inmate who is eligible for release to help them transition more smoothly.

Recommendations

  • Reserve prison beds for serious and violent offenders to reduce the prison population, save money, and promote community-based alternatives for nonviolent offenders
  • Improve release and reentry practices to help ex-offenders re-enter society more easily so as to reduce the risk of recidivism
  • Strengthen probation and parole supervision to reduce the recidivism rate
  • Ensure oversight and accountability so as to ensure laws are effective and offenders are held accountable

If adopted by the legislature, criminal justice reforms would reduce the projected prison population by 9,370 beds, resulting in an 8% reduction in the current prison population and $1.9 billion in averted spending over the next decade. Despite the widespread support for reform, some legislators are looking to keep Oklahoma as a top incarcerator in the nation. Contact your legislator today to tell them you support Criminal Justice Reform in the Sooner State!

Identification of legislation should not be considered an endorsement of support of, or opposition to, such bills.

2019 Op-Ed featured in The Oklahoman: Oklahomans Ill Served by Excessive Occupational Licensing Requirements

2019 Op-Ed featured in Tulsa World: Oklahoma is the nation's No. 1 incarcerator, but it doesn't have to be

Letter to Governor Stitt of Oklahoma