Okla. prison population reaches an all-time high

The Oklahoma Department of Corrections reported Thursday that the number of Oklahoma inmates topped 63,000 for the first time in history.
For perspective, that number makes up 1.62 percent of Oklahoma’s total population.
The official count of 63,009 prisoners shows that 2,000 more people have been added to the already overcrowded corrections system of nine months ago, the last official count.
In a June 27 DOC staff meeting, DOC Director Joe Allbaugh said, “I showed up about 18 months ago and feel like I inherited the Titanic that has already been ruptured.”
Two months later, as this number came in, Allbaugh begged the question, “what are we to do?”
In order to remain operational the DOC needs three new prisons and $700 million more in operating funds, totaling $2.8 billion, Allbaugh said.
Gov. Mary Fallin and others have been pressing for criminal justice reforms that will reduce the prison population without affecting public safety.
Reforms include reclassification of some non-violent felonies as misdemeanors and greater use of treatment programs and supervision such as parole, probation and GPS monitoring.
Some prosecutors and lawmakers, however, argue that the proposed measures go too far, and will result in dangerous individuals returning to the streets.
These reforms include State Questions 780 and 781, which passed in the 2016 election, but which many state legislators are trying to repeal.
Representative Scott Biggs (R, Chickasha), a particularly vocal opponent of the reforms, has said possession of methamphetamine, heroin, cocaine and date rape drugs should still be a felony.
“Criminal justice reform remains at the top of my agenda. I will continue to seek sensible reforms in our criminal justice system that keep dangerous criminals in the system, but provides appropriate solutions to support non-violent offenders,” Fallin said.
“Many states have shown that it’s possible to reduce imprisonment while also reducing crime. By ensuring expensive prison beds are used for serious, violent offenders and reinvesting savings into programs that cut crime and recidivism, these states are getting a better public safety return on their corrections spending.”
“It is unacceptable, though unsurprising, that the Oklahoma Department of Corrections continues to set new records on the number of humans suffering under our cur- rent system,” said former state representative Ryan Kiesel, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Oklahoma.
“Oklahoma’s criminal justice system is an unsustainable, indisputable human rights catastrophe. As more and more Oklahomans are consumed by our political leaders’ in- satiable appetite for mass incarceration, we move further from safety and justice and closer to reaching the now inevitable distinction of becoming the world’s largest jailer.”

Post Author: Kayleigh Thesenvitz