Proposed bill eyes re-entry, support program for non-violent offenders

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OKLAHOMA CITY -- An Oklahoma lawmaker has filed a bill which would authorize the state corrections department to create a pilot program for inmates who are approaching the end of their sentences.

Senate Bill 42 is authored by Sen. George Young, D-Oklahoma City who told News 4 the main purpose of his bill is to address the needs of people once they get out of prison by offering a program which focuses on what kind of services are available to aid in the adjustment of transitioning from life in prison.

"I want them [inmates] to have the option, not going to be mandatory, but an option but when their release date approaches that they have individuals that they have talked to and will help them and direct them to the services they need to be able to make this adjustment," Sen. Young said. "Research shows that people who have some form, some platform, some sort of foundation to step off on after they come out of being incarcerated are people who are going to be more successful or people who are not going to recidivate."

According to Young,  participation in the program will be limited to those convicted of a non-violent felony offense.

The bill states inmates participating in the reentry pilot program "shall be enrolled in the program for a minimum of 24 to 30 months". The program itself is subject to the availability of funds, the bill goes on to say.

In October, the Oklahoma Department of Corrections said Oklahoma Department of Corrections said they were in desperate need of increased funding in order to safely house the state’s prison population. The state Board of Corrections unanimously approved the agency's 2020 budget request of $1.57 billion.

Young said the purpose of the bill is not to place additional burden on the ODOC but it would require the establishment of private-public partnerships with various organizations and programs including those focused on rehabilitation and mental health.

"When someone comes out of prison with the knowledge that they’re not going to be left alone but have a pathway that has been traveled…‘Listen, this is where you go…check in with them if you really want to make this adjustment and make it successfully, check in with entity. This entity will see you, they will talk with you. They will share with you. They will give you opportunities. They will give you referrals. Not only that, they will help you in making this transition from being incarcerated to being a valuable contributing citizen," he explained.

Jessica Brown, a spokesperson for the ODOC, told News 4 Sunday the agency is still reviewing the bill and considering how it would affect current practices that are already in place and whether this proposed pilot program would come with a price tag.

To read a copy of the bill, click here.

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