Fallin's budget shorts corrections reforms
BY BARBARA HOBEROCK World Capitol Bureau
Sunday, February 10, 2013
2/10/13 at 8:16 AM
OKLAHOMA CITY - Gov. Mary Fallin's proposed budget does not fully fund key reforms passed last year in a highly touted criminal justice bill.
"There are some items in the Justice Reinvestment bill that it does not appear to cover," said Justin Jones, Department of Corrections director.
Fallin released her executive budget on Monday. It called for a corrections budget of $464.7 million, which included a .2 percent - or $1 million increase - for the agency.
Fallin's office indicated the additional $1 million is for offender growth and other challenges.
The agency sought a budget increase of nearly $67 million and a supplemental appropriation of nearly $6.4 million to pay for legislatively mandated increases to private contractors, such as private prisons, and for offender growth, among other things.
Last session, lawmakers passed and Fallin signed House Bill 3052, by then-House Speaker Kris Steele, R-Shawnee. The measure, dubbed the Justice Reinvestment Initiative, was designed to curb prison growth and enhance public safety.
It calls for mandatory supervision for felons discharging their sentences.
In its budget request, the agency sought $3 million to hire the needed personnel.
Jones said that Fallin's budget did not provide funds to hire the 45 additional probation and parole officers needed to supervise those discharging their sentences.
Steele said if the funds aren't secured, it could cause additional problems and result in less supervision.
The new law also creates intermediary revocation facilities for those who violate drug court regulations or conditions of probation and parole. Offenders would receive drug and alcohol treatment instead of being sent straight back to prison.
Jones said his agency was seeking $583,000 to provide substance abuse treatment.
Fallin's budget calls for $16 million in additional dollars to go to the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services.
A portion of those funds could be used for the treatment component for the intermediate revocation facilities.
Steele said he supports Fallin's recommendation for more funds for the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services, but the law is clear that it is the responsibility of the Department of Corrections to provide the treatment in the intermediate revocation facilities.
"If the Legislature and governor are not willing to follow through on implementation, they need to repeal the law," Steele said.
He said everyone was aware that initial investments would be needed in the first three years before growth in state prisons would start to slow.
Finance Secretary Preston Doerflinger said Fallin is open to considering additional dollars for corrections but the agency needs to do a better job of justifying its budget request.
Of the nearly $67 million in new funds the agency sought, some $12.2 million was to increase pay to attract and retain correctional officers at a time when the agency is losing staff and seeing an increase in offenders.
Doerflinger said pay for staff was a very important area.
Fallin's budget also calls for reducing the state income tax rate to 5 percent from 5.25 percent.
Original Print Headline: Fallin budget shorts corrections reforms
Barbara Hoberock 405-528-2465