OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – A bill that goes into effect in November will allow released inmates to earn credits to help reduce their sentences.
Rep. Brian Hill from Mustang is the author. He joined Governor Kevin Stitt for a signing ceremony at the Department of Corrections campus on Wednesday.
The point of the bill is to reduce recidivism rates, which is the rate at which people return to prison for committing a new crime after being released.
“We know if someone gets a job in the first 21 days after release, they’re 90 percent less likely to go back,” said Hill.
The lawmaker said people on parole will earn credits for employment and good behavior. The credits would go towards reducing their sentences.
People can be paroled during their sentences, which takes the approval from the Pardon and Parole Board deeming individuals as safe to the public.
“For every 30 days that you do the right thing – you comply with what the state has ordered you to do – you get 30 days off of your sentence,” said Damion Shade, executive director of Oklahoma for Criminal Justice Reform.
Shade said House Bill 4369, which is Hill’s bill, incentivizes low-level offenders, not the most violent. Around 3,600 people will benefit immediately when the bill becomes law on November 1.
“It won’t impact those people who’ve committed what we call the 85% crimes or the most serious offenses,” said Shade.
There are ripple effects to the credits, said Shade. When sentences are reduced, the overall cost to the parolee is lowered. Parolees have to pay every month for urine analysis, cognitive behavioral therapy, treatment resources, and transportation to meetings with their supervisor.
Hill added that lowering recidivism rates reduces the burden on taxpayers because of the reduction in incarcerated individuals.
In attendance at the signing today was Larry Anderson, a business owner that was formerly in prison.
Anderson was incarcerated in 2001 for a drug crime.
He said a lot changed for him when he was finally released and that will be the same with many inmates serving longer sentences.
“The guys had been locked up ten, 12, 15 years or longer, I can’t even imagine what they’re going to see, from where they were to where it is today,” said Anderson.
Anderson was released in 2005. An employer gave him a job as an insurance adjuster, even as a convicted felon. Representative Hill has shared his success story to many people as an example of what steady employment, and an employer that hires the right candidates, can lead to once leaving prison.
Anderson now owns 777 Roofing and Construction in Mustang. He said prison does not have to be the defining moment in someone’s life, and a program, such as the one in HB4369, gives an opportunity for people to get back on track.
“I got a full expungement of my criminal record, and those the things that I feel like need to happen,” said Anderson.