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: http://www.ocpathink.org/articles/978

[ii] Id.

[iii] Oklahoma laws foster incarceration rates, Oklahoma Watch, Barbara Palmer, January 30, 2011: http://www.oklahomawatch.org/story.php?sid=16

[iv] Oklahoma’s Incarceration Rates, Tulsa World, Julie Delcour, December 30, 2008: http://www.tulsaworld.com/opinion/article.aspx?subjectid=214&articleid=20081230_214_0_Whatif773344&allcom=1http://www.tulsaworld.com/opinion/article.aspx?subjectid=214&articleid=20081230_214_0_Whatif773344&allcom=1

[v] Id.

[vi] Oklahoma’s Incarceration Rates, Tulsa World, Julie Delcour, December 30, 2008: http://www.tulsaworld.com/opinion/article.aspx?subjectid=214&articleid=20081230_214_0_Whatif773344&allcom=1http://www.tulsaworld.com/opinion/article.aspx?subjectid=214&articleid=20081230_214_0_Whatif773344&allcom=1

[vii] Id.

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