Pauls Valley, OK, Pauls Valley Democrat

Government News

June 23, 2011

State leaders announce Justice Reinvestment Initiative

Effort seeks to reduce corrections costs while holding offenders accountable

Oklahoma City, Oklahoma — Governor Mary Fallin, House Speaker Kris Steele and Senate President Pro Tem Brian Bingman today announced Oklahoma’s kickoff of the Justice Reinvestment Initiative, a bipartisan effort to engage in a data-driven approach to public safety.

The process will be used to develop dynamic new justice system policies that hold offenders accountable while reducing corrections costs so resources can be reinvested in improved strategies to increase public safety.

“This is about addressing crime in Oklahoma in a better way that we all know exists but have yet to specifically identify,” said Steele, R-Shawnee. “Thirty-six states have seen violent crime rate reductions in recent years, but Oklahoma’s violent crime rate remains unacceptably high. The Justice Reinvestment Initiative will determine why this is the case so policies can be developed to achieve better outcomes through our justice system.”

The effort will see Oklahoma partner with the Council of State Governments (CSG) Justice Center, the Pew Center on the States and the U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) to conduct rigorous data analyses that will determine the effectiveness of existing public safety and corrections policies.

States such as Texas, Indiana and Kansas have successfully used the JRI method to develop reforms that increase public safety, reduce prison overcrowding and better allocate taxpayer resources.

Oklahomahas the nation’s highest female incarceration rate and third highest male incarceration rate, which has resulted in the state’s prisons continually operating at unsustainable maximum capacity levels. In the past decade, the Department of Corrections has needed supplemental appropriations nearly every year to maintain basic operations.

Fallin said the bipartisan Justice Reinvestment Initiative will offer recommendations to the Legislature about how to improve public safety while better utilizing taxpayer dollars.

"It's important to be smart on crime as well as tough on crime as we look for ways to reduce crime and protect public safety in Oklahoma.  The Justice Reinvestment Initiative brings together a bipartisan group to study the legal system and I look forward to reviewing their recommendations."

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