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Oklahoma governor signs prison bill

Measure expands Oklahoma's use of community sentencing programs and the electronic monitoring of low-risk, nonviolent inmates. It also limits the governor's role in the parole process for nonviolent offenders.
BY MICHAEL MCNUTT mmcnutt@opubco.com Published: May 12, 2011
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/articleid/3567181/1/pictures/1416157">Photo - Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin signs one of five separate bills designed to shore up the state's underfunded pension systems by requiring new public employees and teachers to work longer and mandating that cost-of-living adjustments be funded by the Legislature, in Oklahoma City, Tuesday, May 10, 2011. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)
Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin signs one of five separate bills designed to shore up the state's underfunded pension systems by requiring new public employees and teachers to work longer and mandating that cost-of-living adjustments be funded by the Legislature, in Oklahoma City, Tuesday, May 10, 2011. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)

Steele said the bill is expected to save the state Corrections Department at least $5 million a year. But those savings would occur over time as more nonviolent offenders are sentenced to community service or are monitored with electronic devices. Both methods are far less expensive than keeping inmates in prison.

Fallin said the community sentencing options, in addition to saving tax dollars, will help nonviolent offenders, many of whom have substance abuse problems, to receive treatment and safely get back into their communities.

“A child with a parent in prison is five times more likely to end up in the correctional system,” she said. “We can do something about that. Many of our children who have a parent who's in a correctional facility will grow up to live in poverty.”

Corrections Department Director Justin Jones said the measure is a “great opportunity to apply evidence-based criminal justice practices that enhance public safety while also being cost-effective and efficient.”

HB 2131 originally had a section that would have reduced the prison stay for many inmates, but it was taken out by the Senate. It would have changed the default sentencing structure from consecutive terms to concurrent terms in cases where a person is convicted of two or more crimes at trial. Instead of automatically having offenders serve one sentence and then serve the next one, they would have served the sentences at the same time unless the judge said otherwise.


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