Oklahoma prison reforms save $60M
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Prison reforms in Oklahoma have saved the state more than $60 million in the past year, according to a new report.
The Office of Management and Enterprise Services released an analysis Tuesday that also estimates the state will save about $137 million over five years, The Oklahoman reported .
The state reclassified some drug and property crimes as misdemeanors instead of felonies. Those changes have reduced the number of people going to prison, which has lowered incarceration costs, according to the report.
More than 9,000 people in the past year were convicted of such crimes and avoided being in the custody of the Oklahoma Department of Corrections, the report said. That saved taxpayers more than $35 million in jail housing costs, $25 million in state incarceration costs and more than $2 million in drug court costs.
“The voters of Oklahoma should be commended for supporting fiscally conservative policies that are helping to safely reduce our prison population,” Kris Steele, chairman of Oklahomans for Criminal Justice Reform, said in a statement. “While there is still much more to do, Oklahomans for Criminal Justice Reform is encouraged by the savings.”
Still, the Corrections Department is in a tenuous fiscal situation. The agency’s request for an extra $1 billion this year was denied. The department had planned to use those funds to build new prisons with 2,000 beds to accommodate the increasing number of inmates.
The number of prisoners entering the Corrections Department is expected to increase despite the legislative changes.
Information from: The Oklahoman, http://www.newsok.com