Wednesday, May 11, 2011
OKLAHOMA CITY – Governor Fallin today signed into law landmark corrections reform legislation. The governor was joined by House Speaker Kris Steele, Department of Corrections Director Justin Jones and other state leaders. House Bill 2131, authored by Steele, is designed to relieve widespread fiscal and social strains caused by Oklahoma’s nation-leading incarceration rates.
“This bill is about being smart on crime as well as tough on crime,” Fallin said. “The reforms we are signing into law will not only save taxpayer dollars, they’ll help to address some of the social problems that continue to drag down the quality of life in our otherwise great state. By pursuing responsible community sentencing options that allow non-violent offenders – many of whom have substance abuse problems – to receive treatment and safely reintegrate into their communities, we can help to break a cycle of poverty, drug abuse and crime that has inflated our incarceration rates and hurt Oklahoma communities and families.”
Steele, who authored the bill, said the reforms would save money and make Oklahoma safer.
“HB 2131 will save money, produce better outcomes and increase public safety,” Steele said. “We cannot afford to continue on the current path with our incarceration policies. This bill shows we are serious about changing course to be smarter on crime. With the reforms in this bill, we can be more efficient with tax dollars and have more success. It’s a win-win situation.”
HB 2131 has three key proposals:
Community sentencing is significantly less expensive than traditional incarceration. States such as Texas, Indiana and Kansas have seen dramatic cost savings and reductions in crime rates by adopting community sentencing policies like those proposed in HB 2131.
In Oklahoma, it costs about $56 a day to incarcerate someone. By comparison, it costs about $3.50 a day to send an offender to supervised community sentencing.
HB 2131 also calls for increased use of Global Positioning System (GPS) monitoring of offenders. GPS monitoring costs about $4.75 per day. Releasing nonviolent offenders under GPS monitoring improves public safety and helps the offender reintegrate into society in a positive way, according to a study by the Pew Research Center.
Overall, the bill is expected to save the Department of Corrections at least $5 million a year. Oklahoma’s prisons are at 96 percent capacity, but staffing levels at the Department of Corrections are at 69 percent of authorized levels.
Many community sentencing programs provide treatment for substance abuse and teach offenders vocational and relationship skills.
Under HB 2131, decisions made by the Pardon and Parole Board on paroles for most nonviolent offenders will be honored if the governor does not act on that parole within 30 days after receipt.
The governor would still be required to act on all paroles for violent offenders and could act on any nonviolent parole matter if she chose to do so.
HB 2131 proposes specific qualification requirements for Pardon and Parole Board members. There are currently no requirements.
This bill becomes effective November 1, 2011.