OKLAHOMA CITY — A recent impact analysis projects that the latest recommendations from the Attorney General’s Criminal Justice Reclassification Coordination Council would increase Oklahoma’s prison population, costing taxpayers more money each year. Policy experts from FWD.us released the impact analysis this week.
“The Council’s current recommendations are not meeting their own mandate — to reduce or hold neutral the state’s prison population,” said Felicity Rose, Research and Policy Director for FWD.us. “Our analysis shows the Council’s recommendations would increase the prison population by nearly 1,000 people over the next decade and cost between $20 million to $83 million in additional prison expenses. Oklahomans want to safely reduce their incarceration rate and to make the most out of their taxpayer investments — these latest recommendations run counter to that.”
The Council made recommendations to standardize base and enhanced sentence ranges for each felony class. The recommendations also establish new time served requirements for all offenses. Right now, the state only sets minimum time served requirements for a small number of offenses, including certain serious offenses (“85% offenses”).
If these recommendations are adopted, they would significantly increase the time a person spends in prison in Oklahoma. Nearly half (48%) of people who serve time for a nonviolent offense with two or more priors would spend 39% longer in prison. While the Council’s proposed reduction of time served requirements for “85% offenses” could result in prison population reductions, this group makes up only 15% of admissions each year. This change would not offset the impact of creating new time requirements for people with nonviolent convictions. Oklahomans already serve longer in prison than the national average for nonviolent drug (79% longer) and property offenses (70% longer) despite a large body of research demonstrating that excessively long prison terms do not improve public safety.
Other states, such as Mississippi, Ohio, and Arizona, that enacted similar policies requiring some or all people incarcerated to serve a certain percentage of their sentence behind bars have prison populations 13% larger than other states.
Oklahoma has one of the highest imprisonment rates in the country and has been one of the leading incarcerators of women for the past three decades.
“This high incarceration rate has done nothing but spend more than half a billion dollars on prisons a year, and ultimately hurt Oklahoma’s workforce, economy, and families,” said Rose. “Future recommendations by the Council should meet its basic requirement to hold neutral or reduce the prison population. We encourage the Council to work with state and national criminal justice reform experts, advocates, and directly impacted communities to develop a proposal that will address the incarceration crisis and make Oklahoma a stronger, safer state.”