FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: March 17, 2015
House Keeps Commitment to Criminal Justice Reform
OKLAHOMA CITY – Seeking to reduce recidivism, enhance public safety and better manage the state’s crowded prisons, the Oklahoma House of Representatives passed several criminal justice reform measures prior to the first legislative deadline last week.
“Our prisons are understaffed and filled well beyond capacity and the environment is not safe for inmates or corrections employees,” said House Speaker Jeffrey W. Hickman, R-Fairview. “Nonviolent offenders leave prison facing large fees and fines, but with limited opportunities to get employment to pay what they owe or even get a driver’s license to be able to drive to work. They are set up to fail, reoffend and be back in the care of Oklahoma taxpayers.”
This year, Speaker Hickman created the House Criminal Justice and Corrections Committee to bring more focus to these important issues and the crisis facing the state.
“This is a serious issue that both our metro and rural areas face,” said Rep. Pam Peterson, chair of the House Criminal Justice and Corrections Committee. “Too often we hear of the unsafe conditions in our prisons and news stories about inmate escapes and our high recidivism rates. The point of our modern corrections system should be to protect citizens from those who are deemed the most dangerous, and rehabilitate those who deserve a second chance and can be productive and successful members of society. We cannot continue to go down our current path and expect to fulfill these goals.”
The House passed seven measures dealing with the issue of criminal justice reform ranging from expanding work opportunities for ex-offenders to how inmates are paroled, monitored and rehabilitated.
“I thank my colleagues for their dedication to addressing this serious issue,” said Hickman. “Oklahoma has proven itself to be an innovator in public policy, and by advancing these measures we can also be a leader in criminal justice reform.”
Criminal Justice Reform Legislation
HB 1117 (Rep. Cleveland) – Strengthens the parole supervision process and expands Department of Corrections ability to incentivize good behavior using credits for 85 percent crimes.
HB 1630 (Rep. Billy) – Streamlines inmate transfer process from county jail to Department of Corrections.
HB 1518 (Rep. Peterson) – Allows judges flexibility in modifying sentences for certain offenders.
HB 1548 (Rep. Biggs) – Allows for judicial review of sentence modification after completion of Bill Johnson Correctional Center drug offender program.
HB 2168 (Rep. McCullough) – Modifies employment licensing requirements to expand work opportunities for former offenders.
HB 2179 (Speaker Hickman) – Modifies provisional driver’s license and commercial driver’s license requirements to increase opportunities for former offenders to seek gainful employment.
HB 2187 (Speaker Hickman) – Authorizes Pardon and Parole Board to use electronic monitoring of parolee.