Oklahoma’s prison population is 26,000-plus, a 368 percent increase while the state’s population has grown by 25 percent. Projections are that the inmate population could approach 28,500 by fiscal year 2016. The Department of Corrections has about 300 fewer correctional officers than it did a decade ago, while the number of prisoners has grown by 3,000. Double-shifts for correctional officers are the norm. These trends must change in order to do less damage to Oklahoma families and to the state’s budget, and to reduce tensions inside prison walls, says The Oklahoman in an editorial. At some point, lawmakers must truly be willing to be not just tough on crime but smart on crime.
Lawmakers need to resist the urge to add to the list of crimes that require offenders to serve 85 percent of their sentence before being considered for parole. Some Republicans believe that if they support reform efforts like “justice reinvestment,” they’ll be tagged as soft on crime — not by Democrats, but by other Republicans. Self-preservation is Goal No. 1 for most lawmakers, so corrections reform gets ignored. There’s too much downside politically. “Corrections reform” can’t continue as a cuss word at the Capitol, says the newspaper. Being No. 1 in the nation in female incarceration andin the top five in incarceration, with prisons that remain at or near capacity, inflicts enormous fiscal and social tolls. What Oklahoma needs is conservative lawmakers with the courage to stand up and face this issue and demand that their colleagues do the same.