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Gov. Fallin signs remaining criminal justice reform bill

Governor Mary Fallin

OKLAHOMA CITY – Governor Mary Fallin signed the remaining criminal justice reform bill Tuesday.

The Oklahoma Justice Reform Task Force recommended 12 bills, but only three received legislative approval.

Senate Bill 603 was signed Tuesday. It requires all offenders to receive a validated risk and needs assessment which will then guide providers to programs available to offenders. It will also let the Department of Corrections create an individualized case plan for each offender.

Two other task force recommended bills, SB 604 and House Bill 2284 have already been signed by Governor Fallin.

SB 604 provides training for law enforcement related to domestic violence victim safety at the pretrial stage.

HB 2284 provides training for district attorneys, judges, and public defenders. It will including training on substance abuse, behavioral health and impact and dynamics of domestic violence.

“Violent offenders, sex offenders, and offenders convicted of 85 percent crimes are excluded from any sentencing reforms,” Fallin said. “These reforms are targeted at nonviolent offenders, many of whom suffer from addiction and mental health issues. We simply have to start focusing on treatment and reintegrating these offenders, which research has shown will result in lower crime rates and lower rates of recidivism.”

Oklahoma’s prison population is expected to grow over the next 10 years.

That means three new prisons would be needed and could cost the state an additional $1.9 billion in capital expenditures and operating costs.

“Our prisons are way over capacity, and our prison population is expected to grow by 25 percent in the next 10 years,” said Fallin. “Oklahoma’s overall incarceration rate is the second-highest in the country, and we lead the nation in female incarceration – incarcerating women at two-and-a-half times the national average. By 2018, we will have the highest incarceration rate in the country.”

“Some have said we are doing this too fast, that it took Texas six years to accomplish what we are trying to do in two,” Fallin said. “Let’s not forget, we are facing a dire financial situation to the tune of an additional $2 billion to incarcerate even more Oklahomans. While disappointed with the lack of progress this session, I remain committed to criminal justice reform and will continue the push to make Oklahoma smarter on how we confront crime. Creating an epidemic of broken families by incarcerating mothers and fathers who are convicted of nonviolent crimes and struggling with addiction is unacceptable, and is not keeping with Oklahoma values.”