Amid crowded jails, Oklahoma looks to boost felonies

By DAN HOLTMEYER Published: March 8, 2013
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OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Some legislators say political will has faded for a plan meant to curb Oklahoma's exceptionally high prison population.

Last session the Legislature and governor approved a “justice reinvestment initiative” to decrease jail time for nonviolent offenders and keep tabs on prisoners after they're released. But the program hasn't been put into practice, and Gov. Mary Fallin rejected federal money for implementation training last month.

Meanwhile, legislators are considering about 10 new felonies or enhanced punishments. Proponents say harsh penalties will deter crime.

Former House Speaker Kris Steele, who championed the initiative, says more prison time won't fix the state's crowded prisons or high violent crime rate. He says the initiative has worked in other states and would make Oklahoma safer.

Oklahoma's incarceration rate is the fifth highest in the country.

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