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More changes are needed to control prison growth, Oklahoma legislative leader says

Oklahoma House Speaker Kris Steele led efforts this year to get legislation passed that requires supervision of all felons leaving prison and a grant program for local law enforcement agencies.
BY MICHAEL MCNUTT Published: May 11, 2012

House Speaker Kris Steele, who led a three-year effort to pass legislation intended to control prison growth and change how Oklahoma handles prison matters, challenged lawmakers Thursday to continue similar efforts to reduce the state's nation-leading incarceration rates.

“The tide has truly turned,” said Steele, who couldn't seek re-election this year because of 12-year legislative term limits.

“The achievements of the past three years have been significant, but they are by no means the end of this issue. These policies must be sustained and expanded in the years to come, and I am confident they will be, given the strong stance policymakers have taken by enacting these critical reforms.

“I'm honored to have been a part of it and will continue doing what I can to help advance the cause,” said Steele, R-Shawnee, who last year authored a measure expanding the types of inmates eligible for community sentencing and GPS monitoring.

Steele made the comments during a ceremony to mark Gov. Mary Fallin's signing of the measure, House Bill 3052. She signed the measure a day earlier because it was the deadline for her to approve it.

“Increasing public safety is a top priority of my administration and a primary function of state government,” Fallin said.

“In addition to lowering crime rates, reducing the incarceration rate and giving law enforcement more resources to fight crime, this bill will help us to save taxpayer dollars by helping our corrections system operate in a more efficient and effective way.”

What HB 3052 does

HB 3052 establishes a grant program to fund crime-reduction initiatives by local law enforcement agencies; requires at least nine months of post-release supervision of all felons, which should reduce the recidivism rate; establishes risk, mental health and substance abuse assessments and evaluations before convicted felons are sentenced; and develops intermediary revocation facilities for nonviolent offenders who violate drug court regulations or conditions of probation and parole, which should ease prison overcrowding and save money.

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