At a time when justice reform has more and more come below fireplace across the nation, with hardliners citing rising crime charges, a brand new report highlights Oklahoma’s success in decreasing its jail populations.
Over the previous 5 years, a sequence of reform payments, handed with bipartisan help from state legislators, led to a 21 p.c decline in jail inhabitants—from 28,342 in 2017 to 22,341 in 2022— in a state which as soon as had the best incarceration fee within the nation.
In contract, between 1978 and 2016, Oklahoma’s jail inhabitants soared 615 p.c, from barely over 4,000 individuals to nearly 30,000.
Because the reforms, “Oklahoma’s prison justice system has reduced in size, cheaper, extra honest, and extra simply,” claimed the report by FWD.us, a nonprofit justice assume tank.
Amongst different achievements, the variety of individuals charged with a felony offense has fallen by one-third, and the variety of individuals imprisoned for drug offenses dropped by 62 p.c over the identical five-year interval.
Reform measures authorised by the legislature included decreasing sentences for low-level drug and property crimes, streamlining the parole course of for nonviolent offenses, and increasing alternatives for document expungement.
Taken collectively, the measures have had a constructive influence on people and households most prone to involvement with the justice system, concluded the report, entitled, “Turning the Web page: Oklahoma’s Felony Justice Reform Story.”
“Greater than 15,000 individuals annually will now have a neater time discovering and preserving a job, sustaining steady housing, and supporting their households,” the report stated.
However the report additionally made clear that there was a protracted technique to go.
The state nonetheless had the nation’s third-highest general imprisonment fee and the second-highest girls’s imprisonment fee and famous the justice system was “deeply distorted alongside racial strains.”
“Black persons are practically 5 instances extra prone to be in jail than white individuals and racial disparities are worse in the present day than earlier than this latest interval of reform,” the report stated.
Oklahoma jail sentences for property crimes comparable to larceny and fraud had been on common practically twice so long as in different states, and greater than twice as lengthy for drug sale or trafficking convictions—35 months in Oklahoma in comparison with a mean of 17 months.
“This cussed reliance on growing jail sentences somewhat than investing in widespread sense coverage adjustments comes at a monumental value to taxpayers,” the report stated.
“Oklahoma spends greater than $552 million on the jail system annually with none actual public security advantages.”
The report concluded: “Oklahoma’s prison justice reform story continues to be written (however) the enhancements which have been made to the prison justice system within the final 5 years present that progress is feasible.”
FWD.us was established as a nonprofit bipartisan advocacy group for immigration and justice reform in 2013 with help from Silicon Valley entrepreneurs and led by principal Fb founder Mark Zuckerberg.
The total report could be downloaded right here.