Changes sought to curb Oklahoma jail crowding

BY JULIE BISBEE Modified: January 16, 2009 at 4:33 am •  Published: January 16, 2009
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/> Terri White, commissioner of the state Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services Department, said having more drug and mental health treatment options at the community level, before people enter the criminal justice system, could help trim the prison population.

"Today we know that mental illness and addiction is a disease of the brain,” White said. "The brain is not working correctly, just like the body doesn’t work correctly when someone has diabetes. If we locked up people with diabetes there would be a public outcry.”

Participants in Tuesday’s panel recognized the challenges for lawmakers to reform the state’s criminal justice system and urged town hall participants to talk to their local leaders, urging the need for reforms.

The Oklahoma Academy is a statewide nonpartisan, nonprofit group that examines issues facing the state each year. In previous years, the group has helped push for reforms in clean air, tax credits for investments in agriculture and increasing health insurance among Oklahomans.



AT A GLANCE
ACADEMY’S SUGGESTIONS

Members of the Oklahoma Academy met for three days to discuss the state’s criminal justice system. Some of their recommendations include:

→Make changes to current sentencing laws, reconsidering the 85 percent rule that requires offenders with certain offenses to serve 85 percent of their sentences.

→Fully fund the Department of

Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services’ "Smart on Crime” plan that would increase

mental health and drug treatment programs at the community level.

→Make alternatives available to first-time, nonviolent offenders and nonviolent offenders with one prior felony conviction.

→Reduce the number of women in prison in the next decade. Oklahoma puts 129 women in prison per 100,000 population. The national rate is 69 per 100,000.

→Review the state’s financing for corrections should include spending more on prisons.

Source:

Oklahoma Academy

town hall report

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