Government and the legal system move in mysterious ways. The state of Oklahoma has known for decades that they had an overcrowding problem in the prison system. Instead of doing the right thing and expanding the prisons themselves, they allowed the money of lobbyist to convince them to give contracts to private prisons at the tune of $95 million dollars a year. That in turn led to the increase in the incarceration of individuals for offenses that could have been handled in another way. It also led to a complete lack of training and rehabilitation of inmates in marketable skills needed to reduce the recidivism rate for the prison population. This is a clear indication that greed is running the government not the common sense necessary to maintain a Constitutional Republic.
While they may have good intentions of saving money and easing overcrowding in the prison system, they fail to take into consideration that the money saved will be sent to the counties to cover the cost of the programs they are required by the passage of this law to establish. In addition they will still be under contract with private prisons for a certain amount of beds even if they are unable to fill them. That will still cost the state $95 million dollars a year.
Last year there was a $1.3 billion dollar shortfall in the state budget. We do not recall any of the television or radio stations saying exactly why except for the lower price of oil. This article will tell you how much trouble we are in Oklahoma unemployment rate tops national average for first time in 13 years | KFOR.com. The headline says it all. By releasing these individuals with no known useful skills the crime rate in the state of Oklahoma is going to soar. The federal government has placed Oklahoma into an official recession. After six consecutive quarters of downturn in the state we are sitting on the edge of a depression. How in the world can we afford to put criminals back on the street? We would only be putting our law abiding citizens in danger again.
The State Question we are talking about is well explained here Oklahoma Rehabilitative Programs Fund Initiative, State Question 781 (2016) - Ballotpedia. We urge you to open the link and read the article itself. It basically transferred what they call "calculated savings" and "averted cost" on a proportional basis to the counties. These funds can be claimed by privately run drug and mental health organizations. We can only see that the passage of this bill will prevent the Department of Corrections from returning to the legislature annually for additional funding to complete the fiscal year. There will be no savings from the Department of Corrections until such time as our State Legislature frees itself of the campaign donations from the private prisons and severs the contracts with them. This also fails to address those that are mentally disabled and being warehoused in state prisons instead of getting the help they truly need. Although well intentioned, it fails to address the overall problem with the corrections system and the lack of true rehabilitation for those that are incarcerated.
The next article of interest we found was this Oklahoma 2016 ballot measures - Ballotpedia. We included this in this article so that you would be aware of all the State Questions on the ballot this November. This will allow you to do your own research and draw your own conclusions on each question. An informed voter is more likely to make the right choice.
The next article of interest we found was this question. This actually goes into a little more detail about each question that made it onto the ballot in November. It will give you a head start on your own research.
The next article of interest we found was dated August 22, 2016. It is the last group of State Questions to make the ballot State questions Oklahoma voters will see on the November ballot | KFOR.com. There were two initiatives that failed to make the ballot. One was for the lack of the amount of required signatures. The other was because the Attorney General changed the language of the title and the sponsor of the initiative appealed it to the State Supreme Court.
The next article of interest we found was this Oklahoma state questions on criminal justice reform to be on November ballot | News OK. This is a news report announcing that the companion bill and this bill would both be on the ballot in November.
The next article of interest we found was this State Supreme Court keeps its version of state question ballot titles - News - Bartlesville Examiner-Enterprise - Bartlesville. Law enforcement had complained about the title of the State Question to the Supreme Court. It was taken into consideration and the Supreme Court decided to stick with the title they had originally agreed upon. Needless to say law enforcement wasn't happy.
The next article of interest we found was this Oklahoma Group Begins Petition Drive For Criminal Justice Reform. This shows how in such a short period of time they were able to gather enough signatures to get their petition approved for inclusion on the November ballot.
We find it interesting that this State Question and its companion, State Question 780 are very similar to the bill that former Speaker Kris Steele tried to get passed while he was the Speaker of the House. We also know that he pushed for this type of legislation in the House this year. We haven't been able to find a connection to the initiative drive and him however we do know he works for one of the companies that would stand to make millions out of this project. We would not be surprised to find the hands of David Prater involved either.
We find this bill to be a well-intentioned but misguided bill. It's funded on an expected savings that just isn't going to be there until such time as the state separates itself from the private prison industry. It puts criminals out on the street that have no support system to back them. The county systems they talk about will take years and dollars to put in place and become functional. It is the recommendation of this group that this receive a negative vote at this time.
We would like to see the Corrections Department truly give people a chance at a life when they are released. The Federal threat of intervention due to overcrowding has been neglected by the state for decades. Try teaching the inmates usable skills and have them expand the prisons. Then you're only out the cost of material.