Oklahoma’s incarceration rates, especially for nonviolent offenders, have grown significantly in recent years filling prisons to capacity and costing the state millions of dollars. To address this growing problem, Sen. Josh Brecheen and House Speaker Jeff Hickman authored Senate Bill 1720, which was recently signed into law. The act will strengthen community supervision requirements of offenders to ensure proven behavior modification methods are used to lower the state’s high recidivism/incarceration rates and help these individuals become productive, self-sufficient citizens.
Oklahoma's average incarceration rate has grown by roughly 1,000 new inmates per year increasing the state’s inmate population from 7,000 in 1980 to 26,000 in 2014 far exceeding population growth in other states.
“Nonviolent related offenses are where we must focus our attention if we are to ever truly address the unsustainable growth rate within our incarceration system” said Brecheen, R-Coalgate. “The cost of probation supervision by district attorneys, the Department of Corrections or private agencies is less than $3 per day versus $43 to house a nonviolent inmate. We need to work to help get nonviolent offenders rehabilitated and back to work so they can support themselves and their families.”
SB 1720 requires entities that supervise offenders on probation to conduct an intake and orientation, substance abuse assessment, criminal risk needs assessment, develop a treatment plan, conduct substance abuse testing, and monitor the compliance of the offender with all obligations and requirements ordered by the court. The supervising entity must also provide sanctions in the event the offender violates the conditions of probation.
“Often after a nonviolent first-time offense, offenders are placed under District Attorney supervision where they’re required by law to pay $40 per month for their supervision. There are certain D.A. offices that do a great job of supervising these offenders by making them take random drug tests and either obtaining a job or maintaining one. Others, however, are simply collecting the fee from the offender and not offering sufficient supervision,” said Brecheen. “Offenders are more likely to make up their minds to become productive, self-sufficient citizens when provided a high level of supervision. Therefore, this bill will ensure the highest level of supervision and accountability possible to hopefully keep offenders from returning to a life of crime and back in jail.”
The new law will go into effect November 1, 2014.