Gov. Mary Fallin announced a new criminal justice task force Wednesday. The 18-member group wants to have data-driven policy reforms proposed in time for the 2017 legislative session.
Fallin says The Oklahoma Justice Reform Task Force aims to reduce Oklahoma’s prison population while maintaining public safety and controlling the ever-increasing cost of the the state’s corrections system. Annually, Oklahoma pays roughly $500 million to the Department of Corrections.
“Oklahoma has to be smart on its corrections spending, smart on crime, plan for the future and ensure we're getting the most for our dollar to make sure our public is safe with the limited amount of money we have," Fallin said.
Oklahoma has convened similar groups in years past to address incarceration, but Fallin is hopeful the state’s current tight budget will cause lawmakers to act.
"We all know that prison plays a critical role in keeping dangerous people off the streets and protecting our communities, which is our number one goal," Fallin said. "But we also know that a growing number of research shows there are other ways to punish people who commit offenses and that prison may not be the best option for every offender."
Lawmakers passed four bills during the 2016 legislation session aimed to reduce incarceration rates, but the state continues to suffer from over-crowded and under-staffed prisons.
The task force coincides with other criminal justice efforts taking place: State Questions 780 and 781 are designed to reform mandatory prison sentences and increase community sentencing options. The public will vote on the proposals this November.
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