Oklahomans should embrace better justice
By Sen. Greg Treat and Grover Norquist
Justice and public safety are two duties every legislature needs to address. We know any legislative discussion is difficult by design, and our political system works best when lawmakers turn a critical eye on all issues to produce effective, fiscally sound public policy. In pursuing criminal justice reform the Legislature, the Oklahoma Justice Reform Task Force and Gov. Mary Fallin have done just that. It’s time for the Legislature to work together to do the right thing and fulfill their obligation to protect public safety and taxpayer dollars.
Criminal justice reform bills being considered this session accomplish five main objectives: strengthening supervision of offenders, focusing prison beds on serious and violent offenders, improving release practices, providing better support to victims of crimes, and ensuring oversight and accountability. These reforms didn’t come from nowhere. They were developed in the midst of a historic conservative movement to reform the justice system.
If the bills are passed with the policies intact, the state will not only avert the 7,200 prison beds that will be added to the system, but actually decrease the current population by 3 percent, saving taxpayers billions of dollars.
The key is doing it safely, which these packages do.
Oklahoma has the second-highest imprisonment rate in the nation and the highest among women. And, with prisons operating over capacity — at a cost of $500 million annually to taxpayers — Oklahoma risks federal intervention and worse, puts the lives of brave corrections officers in jeopardy. If the Legislature does nothing, this situation will worsen dramatically: Oklahoma will have the No. 1 imprisonment rate in the nation by 2018, at a cost of $2 billion over the next 10 years.