Thursday, March 14, 2013
OKLAHOMA CITY – Governor Mary Fallin today thanked the Oklahoma House of Representatives for passing House Bill 2042, a bill that would formalize the process of implementing the Justice Reinvestment Initiative (JRI). HB 2042 passed 57-35; it was authored by Rep. Jason Murphey.
JRI was created by HB 3052, which was signed into law by the governor in 2012. It seeks to reduce Oklahoma’s incarceration rate by transitioning non-violent offenders with substance abuse problems to drug and alcohol treatment. It also aims to reduce the recidivism rate by providing supervision for those who have been released from prison.
The law also gives courts the option to use a presentence risk and needs-assessments/evaluations to help guide sentencing decisions regarding the most appropriate level of punishment, supervision, and treatment for each offender.
State agencies including the Office of the Governor, the Office of the Attorney General, the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services, and the Department of Corrections are tasked with implementing JRI. Currently, implementing agencies receive implementation advice from the JRI Working Group, an informal and extra-legal body composed of various state justice officials, interested citizens, and stakeholders in the criminal justice system.
HB 2042 would incorporate a formal governmental body within state government to supervise JRI implementation, within the existing state entity called the Re-Entry Policy Council. Members would be selected by both the legislature and the Governor.
“The JRI initiative is part of a ‘smart on crime’ philosophy that I have long advocated for,” said Fallin. “I am absolutely committed to seeing this initiative succeed.
“We need to get non-violent offenders whose crimes are related to addiction and substance abuse the help they need to get sober and be constructive members of their community. That’s why it’s so important we get JRI right.
“As of now, there is no formal governmental group who has been legally tasked with implementing this plan and making it work. The members of the working group are well-intentioned and committed to JRI, and I applaud them for their service. However, they are an informal, extra-governmental group with limited access to the daily implementation efforts of the agencies tasked with this important reform effort.
“My thanks go out to the House for working to create a formal government body to assist in the implementation of JRI. This will improve oversight and implementation while also ensuring the workings of the new Re-Entry Policy Council fall under transparency guidelines outlined in the Open Meetings Act.”
Fallin’s general counsel, Steve Mullins, said the new Re-Entry Policy Council would give the group the additional legislative and stakeholder support it needs to work with other JRI stakeholders.
“One important partner in the implementation of JRI is the Council of State Governments (CSG),” said Mullins. “For CSG to work with the state of Oklahoma, they need clear and authoritative guidance. The JRI Working Group can’t do that, because it is not a government body.
“The Re-Entry Council will be able to speak on behalf of the state and will be more directly involved with implementation.”