Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Oklahoma rethinks incarceration for low-level offenders

While I continue to maintain that that the best thing ever to come out of Oklahoma is Interstate-35, I'm happy to see via Corrections Sentencing that Texas' neighbors to the north are reconsidering mass incarceration for low-level offenders along similar lines to recent Texas proposals.

The biggest difference, their Governor is championing the program personally, proposing $20 million in new drug treatment spending in Oklahama, compared to Gov. Perry's recommendation today for just $14.7 million in treatment spending for much larger Texas, 90% less than what legislative studies say is necessary. As AP reported ("Henry proposes 'smart' public safety plan," Feb. 6):
Gov. Brad Henry on Wednesday proposed to expand his "Smart on Crime" program, which he said would preserve prison space for violent criminals.

Henry said he will set aside an extra $20 million in his executive budget, to be presented to the Oklahoma Legislature on Monday, to finance his program, which stresses drug courts, mental health courts, juvenile courts, drug and alcohol treatment, work programs and restitution.

"For too many years, the state has spent hundreds of millions of dollars warehousing low-level, nonviolent offenders and scrambling to find prison space for the truly violent criminals," the governor said.

"We have to be tough on crime and lock up dangerous offenders, but we need to be smart on crime, too," he added. "That means punishing low-level offenders in a more effective way that protects the public safety without giving them free room and board in a taxpayer-financed prison cell.

1 comment:

Catonya said...

(as you know) After several years on probation in Texas I transferred/relocated to Oklahoma so I've had a good view of both systems.

One of the biggest differences is OK has a mandatory review for release after 1/3 (of the sentence) or 2 yrs -whichever comes first.

The other big difference -
In TX you can expect almost every offender will remain on monthly in-person reporting for the duration of their sentence.

In OK-
Beginning with an offender's very first appt, OK works to reduce in-person reporting. Offenders who follow the rules will go to a bi-monthly schedule within 6 months and progress to annual reporting shortly thereafter.

I know of only one TX probationer who progressed to bi-monthly (in-person) visits. And that was after 5 yrs of monthly reporting.

The Texas probation system is geared to keep offenders on probation as long as possible and for as many visits as possible.

TX could learn a lot from OK, if they would....