Oklahoma Legislators, ALEC hold justice reinvestment session
Published: March 5th, 2012
Oklahoma legislators met February 28 at an American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) roundtable discussion on justice reinvestment, a data-driven approach to reduce corrections spending and reinvest savings in strategies that decrease crime and strengthen neighborhoods.
The Oklahoma legislature recently began debating a package of policies that were inspired by a statewide Justice Reinvestment Working Group. Those policies include strategies to fight crime and enhance public safety, strengthen supervision and contain prison costs. Many of Oklahoma’s justice reinvestment proposals align with ALEC’s model polices to improve public safety, increase offender accountability and control corrections spending for states.
At the invitation of ALEC, Oklahoma Speaker of the House Kris Steele, Former Congressman Asa Hutchinson, Director of North Carolina Community Corrections David Guice, and the Council of State Governments Justice Center’s Robert Coombs met with Oklahoma legislators and stakeholders to discuss recommendations for the state’s heavily-burdened criminal justice system.
This followed a press conference during which police chiefs and sheriffs from around the state openly backed the legislation and the statewide District Attorneys Association also announced its support.
Speaker Steele has placed a priority on criminal justice reform this legislative session to address the challenges Oklahoma is facing: a high rate of violent crime, a lack of supervision for offenders after release from prison, and a growing prison population.
ALEC supports reforms that protect communities at a lower cost by reducing recidivism through strengthening community supervision programs, improving government efficiency through data collection and performance measurement and concentrating prison space on violent career criminals.
The justice reinvestment approach has been tested in states all over the country, as in 2005, when the state of Texas passed criminal justice reforms that enabled the state to reduce its crime rate by 10 percent and will save approximately $2 billion on prison costs.
Last year, states such as Arkansas, Ohio, North Carolina and Kentucky enacted similar reforms that employ evidenced-based practices to provide for offender rehabilitation and accountability, protect the community and increase victim restitution.
Like many such states, Oklahoma has taken the recent economic troubles as an opportunity to develop more fiscally sustainable criminal justice system that has better public safety outcomes.
ALEC’s Public Safety and Elections Task Force is committed to providing solutions that apply accountability, limited government, private enterprise and fiscal and personal responsibility to criminal justice problems.