Oklahoma’s incarceration rate is among the highest in the nation and spending on corrections has increased 41 percent over the past decade, yet crime rates have fallen less than most other states. This suggests that additional public safety benefits are not being generated despite Oklahoma’s increased investment in corrections. To address this challenge, the Oklahoma Legislature passed House Bill 2131, a bill designed to make the criminal justice system more efficient and cost-effective. The bill was signed into law in May.
The combined elements of the bill are anticipated to ease the fiscal and social strains caused by Oklahoma’s prison overcrowding. However, a comprehensive analysis of the criminal justice system is needed to determine the best way to pursue additional reforms. Policymakers are interested in conducting an extensive evaluation to identify additional policies for holding offenders accountable in a way that uses tax dollars efficiently and, most importantly, improves public safety.
To address these issues, Governor Mary Fallin, Speaker of the House Kris Steele, Senate President Pro Tempore Brian Bingman and Supreme Court Justice James Edmondson expressed interest in employing a justice reinvestment strategy, which is a data-driven approach to reduce corrections spending and reinvest a portion of the savings generated in strategies that will increase public safety. To this end, Oklahoma sought assistance from the Bureau of Justice Assistance, a division of the U.S. Department of Justice, and the Pew Center on the States.
The state leaders agreed to establish a bipartisan, interbranch working group comprised of leading state officials which would receive intensive technical assistance from the Council of State Governments Justice Center in partnership with the Pew Center on the States. The CSG JusticeCenter will assist the working group in analyzing data and developing a comprehensive set of policy options.