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
“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.
It's expected the program will save $170 million in the next decade and provide $40 million to law enforcement agencies over a 10-year period to help pay for technology, overtime and targeting strategies such as hot-spot policing that increases police presence in high-crime
The measure goes into effect Nov. 1.
“The bill achieved what we wanted and needed, and the state now has the opportunity to do even more in the future,” Steele said.
Aim to reverse trends
HB 3052 is intended to address trends in the past decade that saw the state's prison population increase 15 percent while spending on prisons rose 41 percent, Fallin said.
The violent crime rate during that time decreased by 4 percent.
“That is unsustainable and is unworkable,” Fallin said.
The governor said the bill should help carve into the state's high incarceration rates. Oklahoma is first in the nation in the number of female prisoners and third in the number of male inmates.
Steele didn't get everything he wanted in the measure. He had to accept a decision by the Senate to eliminate a part of his bill that would have allowed inmates who must serve 85 percent of their sentence to start earning good-time credits when they enter prison.
Inmates now serving the 85 percent sentences are not eligible to earn good-time credits until 85 percent has been served.