(OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla.)—The following is a statement from the Crime and Justice Institute’s (CJI) Director of Policy and Campaigns Len Engel following today’s landmark criminal justice policy votes in the Oklahoma Legislature.
“Lawmakers in Oklahoma took a major step toward addressing the state’s prison crisis. The Senate, with strong leadership from Senators Treat and Shaw and Senate President Pro Tempore Schulz, overwhelmingly passed five bills that would significantly reduce projected prison population growth while protecting public safety. The strong bipartisan Senate votes follow similar support for two additional bills on the House side, where Speaker McCall and Representatives O’Donnell and Loring championed the effort.
“The Crime and Justice Institute, with its partners at the Pew Charitable Trusts, has been assisting Oklahoma leaders since June 2016, when Gov. Mary Fallin established the Oklahoma Justice Reform Task Force to conduct an analysis and make formal recommendations to the Legislature. At the invitation of state leaders, CJI brought criminal justice policy expertise and provided technical assistance throughout the process.
“The task force’s findings were striking: Oklahoma’s prison population is at 113 percent capacity, with 75 percent of inmates sentenced to prison for non-violent offenses. Oklahoma has the second-highest incarceration rate in the nation and the highest rate of incarcerated women. Without legislative action, the prison population is projected to grow by 25 percent over the next decade, requiring the state to build or lease three new prisons at a cost of $1.9 billion to taxpayers.
“The leadership demonstrated in both legislative chambers shows the dedication to forging a different path forward for Oklahoma, one that recognizes the need for smart criminal justice policies based on reason and data rather than anecdote. We anticipate continued support as these bills move through the Legislature and ultimately to the governor’s desk.”