Gov. Mary Fallin signs bill to ease prison crowding
BY BARBARA HOBEROCK World Capitol Bureau
Thursday, May 12, 2011
5/12/11 at 3:08 PM
Read previous stories from the Women in Prison series.
OKLAHOMA CITY - Gov. Mary Fallin on Wednesday signed what she called landmark corrections reform legislation.
House Bill 2131 increases the number of offenders eligible for electronic monitoring and community sentencing programs.
In Oklahoma, it costs about $3.50 a day for community sentencing, $4.75 for electronic monitoring and about $56 a day for incarceration.
The measure modifies the governor's role in the parole process for nonviolent offenders.
If the governor does not take action within 30 days of the recommendation from the Pardon and Parole Board in cases of low-risk, nonviolent offenders, the recommendation shall stand.
The bill also establishes minimum requirements for members of the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board.
Lawmakers have an obligation to be smart on crime, but tough on crime, Fallin said.
"House Bill 2131 is about breaking the cycle of substance abuse, poverty and crime by getting nonviolent offenders rehabilitated, into treatment, getting them the help they need to rejoin society while also being under the watchful eye of the state," Fallin said.
The bill signing was witnessed by members of Women in Recovery, a program in Tulsa County that helps women overcome addiction and return to society. It is considered an alternative to prison for nonviolent offenders.
Oklahoma for years has led the nation in the number of females it incarcerates.
A child with a parent in prison is five times more likely to end up correctional system, Fallin said.
"We can do something about that," she said.
House Speaker Kris Steele, R-Shawnee, said the measure was the result of a visit he made to the Women in Recovery program.
"I understand that there is a better way," Steele said.
With prisons at 96 percent capacity, it is difficult to continue on the path financially and from a human resource standpoint, Steele said.
Steele said the measure is the foundation and only the first step in the work ahead.
The measure will have long-term cost savings for the Department of Corrections, said director Justin Jones.
"This is a significant investment in Oklahoma's number one asset, our citizens," Jones said.
House Bill 2131, by House Speaker Kris Steele, takes effect Nov. 1 and does the following:
Original Print Headline: Law targets prison crowding
- Increases the number of offenders eligible for electronic monitoring and community sentencing
- Reduces the governor's role in the parole process for nonviolent offenders
- Establishes minimum criteria for members of the Pardon and Parole Board
Barbara Hoberock 405-528-2465
Gov. Mary Fallin: She said the legislation will help get nonviolent offenders rehabilitated while being under the watchful eye of the state.