Oklahomans Kris Steele, David Prater resign from crime reform panel
BY BARBARA HOBEROCK World Capitol Bureau
Friday, March 15, 2013
3/15/13 at 11:03 AM
OKLAHOMA CITY - Former House Speaker Kris Steele and Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater on Thursday abruptly resigned from a panel charged with implementing a highly touted criminal justice reform measure.
Both men accused Gov. Mary Fallin of changing her position on supporting the Justice Reinvestment Initiative, which was the result of House Bill 3052. The measure passed last session. Fallin signed it.
Steele and Senate Pro Tem Brian Bingman, R-Sapulpa, were the authors of the measure designed to curb prison growth and enhance public safety.
"This is going in a different direction, and the words I hear coming out of the mouth of representatives from the governor's office are completely inconsistent with their actions behind the scenes," Prater said in announcing he would no longer co-chair the group. Steele was the other co-chairman.
Fallin initially wrote a letter in support of a grant application for funds from the Department of Justice for training. Her office later decided state funds could be used instead of federal dollars.
Her general counsel, Steve Mullins, tried to explain the change.
Prater asked Mullins if the state essentially was seeking to recoup a portion of funds it sent to the federal government.
"Really, this money is basically being borrowed from other places," Mullins said. "It is deficit spending at the federal level. We do not ask for more deficit spending to help Oklahoma solve its problems."
"Even though it is our money that went to DC in the first place?" Prater asked.
"It isn't our money," Mullins said. "If you look at the federal budget, it doesn't balance."
"This is something beyond JRI," Prater said. "This is something way behind JRI that has been pulled into the mix here."
Prater and Steele grilled Mullins about what they said were a number of changes of position by the governor.
Fallin supported the creation of the working group to oversee implementation of the Justice Reinvestment Initiative, Steele said.
Without talking to the panel, she supported a House Bill 2042, creating of a new group with members appointed by the Legislature and her office.
"You make it a completely political body at that point, driven by politics only," Prater said.
Mullins said the current panel was not an official state-sanctioned group that could affect legislative changes that might need to be made to JRI. But Fallin supports the current panel, which has representatives from law enforcement, the courts, prosecutors and others. Mullins said that she supports JRI.
Steele said four lawmakers serve on the current panel, adding that citizens at any time can ask for legislation.
Steele worked on JRI for at least two years, bringing in various groups to help shape the policy.
The measure calls for mandatory supervision for felons leaving prison, the creating of intermediate revocation facilities for technical violations of probation and parole to reduce the prison population and risk assessments to determine the best treatment for those accused of breaking the law, among other things.
Following the meeting, Steele said Fallin was being disingenuous in her support for the measure.
"They have not been forthright," Steele said. "I would say there is no evidence to suggest that they are truly willing to seriously implement JRI in a meaningful way."
Officials have cited lack of funding in her executive budget as an indication the governor has backed off of the measure.
Alex Weintz, a Fallin spokesman, said the governor does plan to fund JRI, adding that some of the funds she recommended for the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services would be used to support JRI Initiatives.
Original Print Headline: Two quit crime reform panel
Barbara Hoberock 405-528-2465
Kris Steele: The former House speaker resigned along with Oklahoma County DA David Prater, who cited Fallin's office's inconsistency