Reclassification Council’s recommendations will increase Oklahoma’s prison population, national and state analysts believe

Oklahoma City — Criminal justice advocates have opposed recommendations adopted in last Thursday’s meeting of the state Attorney General’s Criminal Justice Reclassification Coordination Council. Research and Policy Director Felicity Rose issued a statement regarding the recommendations. Her critique began:

“Unfortunately, the recommendations adopted today by the Criminal Justice Reclassification Coordination Council will ultimately increase the state’s prison population, cost taxpayers more money, and not increase public safety. They do not meet the Council’s own mandate to hold neutral or reduce the state’s prison population.”

The state attorney general’s staff released, based on the council’s recommendations, a framework for its beliefs about the impact of its recommendations. That material can be examined here:

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In her statement of critique, Rose pointed out, “Oklahoma already has one of the highest incarceration rates in the nation. Oklahomans serve longer in prison than the national average for drug offenses (79% longer) and property offenses (70% longer) despite a large body of research demonstrating that excessively long prison terms do not improve public safety. The Council’s efforts to “standardize” sentences will increase the time people spend behind bars even further.

“Our impact analysis found that the Council’s proposal to establish minimum time served requirements for all felonies would increase the state’s prison population by almost 1,000 people and cost taxpayers between $20 million and $83 million in additional prison expenditures over the next 10 years.”

Responding to questions from, Colleen McCarty of Oklahomans for Criminal Justice Reform (OCJR) reflected, “I believe the report is more accurate than the Department of Corrections estimates. I believe the new reclassification plan will lead to an increase in the prison population.”McCarty continued, saying, “I believe that non-violent offenders will serve longer than they do currently” if the reclassification council’s report is put into effect.

Rose concluded her September 23 press release, saying, “These recommendations will damage the state’s progress on criminal justice reform. We urge 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.”

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