Bipartisan Organization Looks Forward to Across-the-Aisle Support for Fallin’s Smart on Crime Agenda
Washington, D.C. – The U.S. Justice Action Network, the largest bipartisan group working to reform the justice system across the country and in Oklahoma, applauds Governor Mary Fallin for delivering a State of the State address that reinforces her commitment to bringing about smart reforms to the state’s justice system. Coming on the heels of sweeping reforms introduced by her justice reform task force last week, the governor called for rehabilitating more offenders to become productive law-abiding citizens, saving the state money by avoiding costly prison construction costs, and ensuring public safety remains a priority across Oklahoma.
Holly Harris, Executive Director, U.S. Justice Action Network: “In the last year, Gov. Fallin and state leaders from across Oklahoma have committed to moving forward with common sense reforms to the justice system that will increase public safety and safely reduce the prison population, all while easing the burden on taxpayers. Thanks to the example set by leaders like Gov. Fallin, states as diverse as Arizona and Connecticut are working across the aisle to ensure their legislatures make common sense justice policies that reduce incarceration rates and improve public safety an important part of this year’s agenda.
“Just last week, Gov. Fallin’s justice reform task force issued a series of achievable recommendations after a year-long analysis of the state’s justice system to help avoid the unsustainable billion-dollar growth facing Oklahoma taxpayers. We look forward to continuing our work with legislators on both sides of the aisle to implement the task force’s recommendations. ”
Quote from Gov. Fallin’s speech: “Investing in public safety is not just about investing in the Highway Patrol. Public safety is also about investing in ways to be smarter on crime and tough on true criminals.
“It’s no secret our prison population is in a crisis with over 61,000 people under the jurisdiction of corrections. Our prisons are way over capacity, and our prison population is expected to grow by 25 percent in the next 10 years.
“Oklahoma’s overall incarceration rate is the second-highest in the country. We lead the nation in female incarceration – incarcerating women at two and a half times the national average.
“Contrary to what some may think, Oklahoma women aren’t meaner.
“Without reform, Oklahoma must build or lease three new prisons – an expensive proposition even in the best of times. We would need two new prisons immediately without further reform. That is why I created the Oklahoma Justice Reform Task Force to find data-driven, smart-on-crime policies to focus on improving public safety.
“Seventy-five percent of new admissions in prison are nonviolent offenders. The number of drug-possession offenders sentenced to prison with no prior convictions has more than doubled the last five years. My budget includes new money for corrections and treatment, which includes a $50 million bond issue to build wings on a men’s and a women’s prison for substance abuse offenders and rehabilitation.
“There is unprecedented conservative support on this issue from groups such as the American Conservative Union and Law Enforcement Leaders to Reduce Crime and Incarceration. Meanwhile, smart, conservative states such as Texas, Utah, Georgia, Kentucky and South Dakota are already headed this direction and these states have seen better public safety outcomes by pursuing similar reforms.
“As Roy Williams, president and CEO of the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce, has said, ‘Oklahoma spends too much money without positive outcomes locking up low-level, nonviolent people. The business community supports the governor’s efforts and encourages the Legislature to seriously consider these recommendations. Doing nothing means taxpayers must spend billions more to incarcerate more people, or risk problematic federal intervention.'”
You can read more about what other governors are saying about justice reform in their state of the state addresses on the U.S. Justice Action Network website.