More than a quarter of Oklahoma criminals released from prison return within three years. A bill approved yesterday by the state House seeks to lower that rate, but critics say it violates the U.S. Constitution by funneling public money to church organizations running prison programs, reports The Oklahoman. The legislation would encourage faith-based and other volunteer organizations to get involved in prisoners’ lives, including help in finding a job or teaching them parenting skills while in prison; $100,000 has been allotted in the fiscal year 2008 budget to help these groups reduce Oklahoma’s recidivism rate.
The bill would create a council to review state re-entry policies and a task force to seek programs that have potential to reduce the number of criminal reoffenders. The bill, part of the Republican agenda this year, passed the House 93-4 and returns to the Senate. Lawmakers have until Friday to send legislation to the governor.