Monday, January 16, 2012

Weekly Opinion EditorialCRIME IN OKLAHOMA
by Steve Fair




Last week a bipartisan group of Oklahoma leaders released a report with ideas they claim will reduce violent crime in Oklahoma by ten percent in the next five years. The report recommendations fell under three categories: fight crime and enhance public safety, increase supervision and contain prison costs. The twenty member group recommended the following be done in the Sooner state to reduce crime:

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· Help local law enforcement prevent violent crime with state grant funding for technology, overtime, crime analysis, and community partnerships. Unstable funding and increased demand has forced many agencies to simply triage calls for service rather than working proactively to prevent crime.

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· Require supervision for all felony offenders following their prison sentences. Currently, 51 percent of people exiting prison do so with no supervision.

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· Increase availability of substance abuse treatment. There is inadequate access to programs for people on supervision who are determined to be at a high-risk of reoffending and who have acute substance abuse problems.

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· Improve support provided to crime victims and witnesses through district attorneys’ offices. Victim-witness coordinators are key service providers that assist crime victims through the judicial process, but fluctuations in federal funding and local cuts have strained capacity in some jurisdictions.

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House Speaker Kris Steele, (R-Shawnee), who co-chaired the Oklahoma’s Justice Reinvestment Working Group, plans to carry legislation next session based on the group’s findings.

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The report is a product of the Justice Reinvestment Initiative, a data-driven analysis of the state’s criminal justice system led by the Council of State Governments (CSG) Justice Center The CSG is a national nonprofit organization that serves policymakers at the local, state, and federal levels. Justin Jones, Oklahoma’s Department of Corrections Director, is on CSG’s board of directors. You can read more about this group at http://justicereinvestment.org/

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Governor Mary Fallin was among the state leaders who requested that Oklahoma conduct a justice reinvestment analysis of its criminal justice system.“Increasing public safety is a top priority of this administration. Protecting our citizens and keeping Oklahoma safe is a core function of government and a key component to bringing growth, jobs and families to Oklahoma. For that reason, I am looking forward to reviewing the report and seeing what policy recommendations come out of it,” Fallin said.
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First, Oklahoma prisons are overcrowded and a large majority of those in the prison system are non-violent. Oklahoma leads the nation in the percentage of females incarcerated and rank fourth in the number of males in prison per capita. According to the Oklahoma DOC, a total of 24,000 people are currently housed in Oklahoma’s twelve prison facilities. It makes little sense to feed, cloth and provide health care for years to inmates who are able bodied and pose no violent threat to the general public. The DOC says the average cost of incarceration for one offender per year is $16,539. That said, lawbreakers should pay their debt to society. If we can have them pay their debt to by busting rocks while incarcerated or by making restitution under supervision, that seems prudent. It was very disturbing to learn that over half of the felons released on parole go unsupervised. That must be improved.
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Second, the recommendation to help addicts get off dope is a worthy goal, but getting them off and keeping them off are two different things. Oklahoma taxpayers have spent millions on a number of rehabilitation programs through the years and yet drug use in the state continues to climb. Violent crimes associated with drug use are at an all time high. Until state government recognizes the real problem is not physiological, but spiritual, these rehab programs will fail. The most successful drug prevention programs are ones ran by churches and faith based organizations because they deal with the root problem- the heart. Oklahoma state government should partner with them to help addicts. That would be a good spend of taxpayer dollars.
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One of the proponents of prison reform in Oklahoma is the liberal Kaiser Foundation. They have invested $2.6 million in a program to help women in Oklahoma. Women who face prison time can go through an intense, year long program that provides therapy, parenting skills, sober housing, reunification with children and drug/alcohol treatment.
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Reduction of crime in our state can only be achieved by a change of behavior sparked by a change of the heart. No government program can do that- only God can change a heart. Until state leaders recognize that fact, this will be just another waste of taxpayer dollars.

2 comments:

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Steve Fair is a political activist. said...

Thank you for reading.