In June 2016, Oklahoma leaders from all three branches of government charged the Oklahoma Justice Reinvestment Task Force with conducting a comprehensive evaluation of the state’s criminal justice system and developing a set of data-driven recommendations to protect public safety, hold offenders accountable, control costs, and reduce the population under correctional control.
Over the next six months, the task force will consult with criminal justice stakeholders and experts, investigate the drivers of Oklahoma’s prison population growth, and review the extent to which the state’s corrections practices align with the best research on reducing recidivism. The process will conclude with the submission of a wide-ranging package of policy options to the state Legislature for consideration during the 2017 session.
Oklahoma’s prison population has increased 11 percent to almost 28,000 offenders in the past five years, costing the state $578 million annually on corrections, up 18 percent since 2004, adjusting for inflation. Without reform, the state will be required to reopen closed facilities, build new facilities, or contract out for additional beds at a high cost to the state. These large and growing costs come at a time when Oklahoma is facing a $1.3 billion budget gap.
The task force will receive technical assistance from the Crime and Justice Institute and The Pew Charitable Trusts as part of the Justice Reinvestment Initiative, a public-private partnership between the U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Assistance and Pew. Since 2007, states across the country—including Georgia, Mississippi, South Dakota, Texas, and Utah—have successfully deployed justice reinvestment strategies to control corrections spending and protect public safety through policies that prioritize prison space for serious and violent offenders and direct the savings toward programs proved to reduce recidivism.