OKLAHOMA CITY —The following is a statement from the Crime and Justice Institute’s (CJI) Director of Policy and Campaigns Len Engel following Gov. Fallin signing criminal justice policy legislation.

“Governor Fallin and a bipartisan group of legislative leaders worked tirelessly for more than a year to bring forward and pass meaningful criminal justice policy changes that protect Oklahomans’ safety and their pocketbooks. With this legislative package, Oklahoma can put the brakes on out-of-control growth in its prisons by implementing policy based on data and evidence rather than anecdote and fear.

“These bills are the result of more than a year of analysis, debate, and vetting that began with Governor Fallin’s formation of the Oklahoma Justice Reform Task Force in 2016. At the request of state leaders, the Crime and Justice Institute, with its partners at the Pew Charitable Trusts, has provided technical assistance to Oklahoma leaders on the Task Force and in the Legislature. CJI’s technical assistance team analyzed the drivers of Oklahoma’s prison population, the state correctional system, and key criminal justice decision-making. This data-driven approach allowed state leaders to develop an Oklahoma-specific solution based on new research and best practices.

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“State data and the task force’s analysis show that Oklahoma has the second highest rate of imprisonment in the nation, and the highest rate of women in prison – a rank it has held for more than a quarter-century – driven largely by incarceration of low-level, nonviolent offenders. Without intervention by state leaders, Oklahoma’s prison crisis will only grow worse, with a projected 25 percent increase in the incarcerated population over the next decade that will cost taxpayers $1.9 billion. This policy package, which won strong bipartisan support in the Legislature, would avert more than two-thirds of that anticipated growth.

“Oklahoma would not be in a position to take significant and necessary steps to address prison overcrowding and ever increasing costs to taxpayers were it not for the forward-thinking efforts by state leaders, including Governor Fallin, Senate President Pro Tem Schulz, Senator Treat, Senator Shaw, Speaker McCall, Representative O’Donnell, and Representative Loring. Their dedication and leadership has put Oklahoma in a strong position to begin to turnaround the trend of prison population growth and unchecked spending.”