For the 12th year in 13, the Oklahoma corrections department is asking the state legislature for emergency funds, The Oklahoman reports. Since 1995, the prison population has grown from 17,983 inmates to 26,720 and funding has increased from $188 million to more than $461 million, despite the department’s having trimmed $76 million from its budget in the past two years. The department estimates it needs more than $592 million to operate.
Newly elected Speaker of the House Kris Steele is pushing for a series of short-term steps to reduce the budget strain, including enhancing community sentencing programs and mandatory supervision, reviewing mandatory minimum sentences for nonviolent crimes, and effectively utilizing the re-entry program. Steele estimated that removing the governor from the parole process for nonviolent offenders alone could save more than $30 million annually. Steele will seek support for long-term strategies, including entering into a partnership with the Council of State Governments for Justice Reinvestment. The program analyzes criminal justice trends to help officials understand what factors are driving the growth in jail and prison populations and develop policy options to control spending and save tax dollars. “I can tell you from a fiscal standpoint  (and) from a human resource standpoint we are going to have to do something different,” Steele said.