Board [of Corrections] member Robert Rainey said the board's suggestions on ways to save money have not been accepted by lawmakers.This story is notable for a couple of reasons. First, add the Okies to the list of states struggling to pay high incarceration costs in a budget crunch. Second, it's hard for legislators to stop themselves from boosting criminal penalties, even when there's no money to pay for them.
He said lawmakers continue to increase prison sentences and criminalize activities at a time when the agency is taking cuts. That, he said, is "absolutely irresponsible."
Rainey said lawmakers were invited to attend the meeting, but only one — Republican Rep. Jason Nelson of Oklahoma City — attended.
The department has added about 700 new offenders since last April, Jones said. ...
"We have no beds," he said. ...
Board member David Henneke called the inmate population "beyond critical."
We've yet to come to grip with this dilemma in Texas. Despite an array of laudable, nationally recognized criminal justice reforms approved in the last several sessions, Texas has continued boosting criminal penalties and increasing sentence lengths, even as the the Legislature spent hundreds of millions on diversion programs. Texas added 59 new felonies during the last legislative session, bringing the total to 2,383.
In Texas, part of that cognitive dissonance can be explained by the fact that the legislation went through different House committees (reforms in Corrections, penalty hikes in Criminal Jurisprudence). Even more importantly, the Legislative Budget Board assigns no "fiscal note" (bureaucratese for "cost") to criminal penalty hikes for budget purposes, so legislators can pass them without directly funding the extra expense. I don't know enough about Oklahoma's legislature to know how they budget criminal penalty hikes, but in general legislators everywhere seem to be in love with these so-called"enhancement" bills and behave as though money is no object.