State Initiatives: Oklahoma

Oklahoma houses over 25,000 inmates, and only Delaware, Louisiana, Alaska, and Texas have higher per-capita incarceration rates.[i] If Oklahoma could lower its incarceration rate to around the national average, it would have 6,100 fewer inmates, and its annual corrections budget would shrink by an estimated $100 million.[ii]

Additionally, Oklahoma has the highest female incarceration rate in the entire country. For most of the state’s history, women made up an average of 3.5 percent of the state’s prison population. However, by 2010, that percentage was nearly 11 percent, and the population had climbed to 2,760.[iii]

In light of the high cost of corrections and the state’s continually high incarceration rates, state lawmakers worked to change the criminal code in the 90s, and some changes included shorter sentences for non-violent offenders. Yet, Oklahoma, which spent 8% of state appropriations on corrections last year, still ranked in the top 10 states in terms of correctional spending.[iv]

Recently, House Speaker Kris Steele proposed House Bill 2131 which would shorten the time "low-risk, nonviolent" offenders spend behind bars in favor of expanded use of electronic monitoring, treatment programs and other forms of supervised release. According to Speaker Steele, “It costs approximately $40 to imprison a woman for one day or keep her on probation or parole for 13 days. If we refocus our efforts on reforms, like limiting the governor’s role in the parole process for nonviolent offenders and enhancing community sentencing programs, we will drastically cut costs, crime, and incarceration.”[v]

Together with the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs, Right On Crime launched its Oklahoma-focused initiative on March 15, 2011.

[i] Oklahoma getting right on crime, Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs, March 18, 2011:

[ii] Id.

[iii] Oklahoma laws foster incarceration rates, Oklahoma Watch, Barbara Palmer, January 30, 2011:

[iv] Oklahoma’s Incarceration Rates, Tulsa World, Julie Delcour, December 30, 2008:

[v] Id.

[vi] Oklahoma’s Incarceration Rates, Tulsa World, Julie Delcour, December 30, 2008:

[vii] Id.

  • J.C. Watts: Oklahoma must think outside the cell

    Posted in Oklahoma, Priority Issues, Prisons, ROC Blog, State Initiatives: July 7, 2014 by Right on Crime

    J.C. Watts, Right on Crime signatory, chairman of the J.C. Watts Companies, and former representative of Oklahoma’s Fourth Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives, authored an article for Tulsa World on why the Sooner state’s criminal justice system is ripe for reform. “As Oklahoma considers reopening prisons to accommodate a burgeoning inmate population, […]

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  • “Let’s be smart on crime”

    Posted in California, Kansas, Oklahoma, ROC Blog, State Initiatives, Texas: May 1, 2014 by Right on Crime

    “These principles of being smart on crime find roots from the group Right on Crime. Oklahoma, Kansas and Texas have utilized the principles of quality reentry programs to promote public safety, shrink government and effectively utilize our tax dollars.” Click here to read more from the Visalia Times-Delta.

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  • Alaska turns to ROC policies as model for prison reform

    Posted in Alaska, Arkansas, Law Enforcement, Oklahoma, Prisons, ROC Blog, State Initiatives, Substance Abuse, Texas: January 18, 2014 by Right on Crime

    The state of Alaska knows “It’s time to try something else” in regards to their criminal justice system and looks to ROC’s success in Texas as inspiration for reform.

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  • Dollars and Sense: OK prison reform by the numbers, and in understanding hearts

    Posted in Oklahoma, ROC Blog, State Initiatives: December 13, 2013 by Right on Crime

    “It matters not if true prison reform comes for practical reasons or for more reasons, of some combination of each. What matters is whether or not change will happen.” Click here to read the full article.

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  • Vikrant Reddy on Denial of Cert in ‘Saint Joseph Abbey v. Castille’

    Posted in Colorado, Kansas, Louisiana, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Overcriminalization, ROC Blog, State Initiatives: October 16, 2013 by Vikrant P. Reddy

    In this National Review Online article, ROC policy analyst Vikrant Reddy discusses the ruling of Saint Joseph Abbey v. Castille, a case about the unlicensed sale of a funeral casket in Louisiana, and explains why it is “a significant victory against overcriminalization and unnecessary licensing.” Click here to read the full article.

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  • ROC Presents Congressman J.C. Watts

    Posted in Audio and Video, Oklahoma, ROC Blog, State Initiatives, Texas, The Criminal Justice Challenge: October 3, 2013 by Right on Crime

    Right on Crime sits down with Congressman J.C. Watts to discuss incarceration costs, mandatory minimums and why he signed onto the ROC statement of principles. Click here to watch the the full interview.

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  • Michael Carnuccio on why he is a ROC signatory

    Posted in Oklahoma, Prisons, ROC Blog, State Initiatives: September 12, 2013 by Right on Crime

    Carnuccio, president of the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs writes: “An effective, efficient, transparent and accountable corrections system should pay restitution to victims while focusing on getting those mothers reformed and back at home with their children. We need to start getting serious about breaking the cycle, not just throwing more money and cell bars […]

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  • Oklahoma Designs Reentry for Mentally Ill Inmates

    Posted in Oklahoma, Parole and Re-Entry, Priority Issues, ROC Blog, State Initiatives: November 7, 2012 by Jeanette Moll

    Mentally ill offenders have a tendency to cycle in and out of the criminal justice system. Some members of law enforcement see the same offenders so often they’ve begun calling them “frequent flyers.”

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  • Criminal Justice System Reforms Advance in MO, OK, and WV

    Posted in Missouri, Oklahoma, Priority Issues, Prisons, ROC Blog, State Initiatives, West Virginia: March 12, 2012 by Jeanette Moll

    Three states considering sentencing and system reform to save their states millions while creating more effective criminal justice policies have advanced legislation to that end, and one group—the Council of State Governments’ Justice Center—is common to each effort.

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  • “Counsel from a Texan: conservative Republican encourages Oklahoma’s Justice Reinvestment Initiative”

    Posted in Oklahoma, State Initiatives: February 13, 2012 by Right on Crime

    Right on Crime signatory Jerry Madden is featured in this article by Capitol Beat OK: “We faced a tremendously growing curve [for prison population] if we didn’t do something. Oklahoma has the same thing, the same issue. We looked at the charts, the projections, and knew we had to slow [offenders] down from coming into […]

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