Fallin names review board for criminal justice system

Governor Mary Fallin launched a comprehensive review of Oklahoma’s criminal justice system that she says aims at developing reforms to better protect public safety, hold offenders accountable and save money.

Fallin charged the Oklahoma Justice Reform Task Force with submitting reform recommendations that can be considered during the 2017 legislative session.

“Criminal justice reform is a priority for my administration and I am confident that we can find ways to make our communities safer and cut the growing cost of our state’s corrections system,” said Fallin. “With the task force, we have the right people and the right process to generate reforms that will improve public safety by keeping violent and career criminals behind bars and directing resources to programs that reduce rates of re-offending.”

The task force continues the work of the governor’s earlier criminal justice efforts, which included sentencing modifications for low-level drug and property crimes.

Oklahoma’s prison population has increased 10 percent in just five years, driven in part by a 20 percent growth in admissions. State prisons also have seen a 21 percent increase in the female population since 2011.

The rising prison numbers mean the state spends half a billion dollars annually on corrections.

Without reform, the state could be required to spend even more money on prisons, which could include building new facilities or contracting out for additional beds.

The governor’s task force is made up of representatives from all branches of state government and an array of Oklahoma criminal justice stakeholders. It will spend the next six months analyzing the state’s prison, parole and probation populations and examining evidence-based alternatives to prison and risk-reduction strategies.

In developing proposals for reform, the group’s priorities will be to promote public safety and hold offenders accountable, control corrections spending and taxpayer costs and develop cost effective strategies to increase public safety and reduce recidivism.

The task force, which is chaired by Fallin, includes:

  • First Assistant Attorney General Mike Hunter
  • Department of Corrections Director Joe Allbaugh
  • Department of Mental Health Commissioner Terri White
  • Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs Control (OBN) Director John Scully
  • Sen. Greg Treat, R-Edmond
  • Rep. Terry O’Donnell, R-Catoosa
  • Jari Askins, administrative director of the courts
  • Tulsa County District Court Judge Doug Drummond
  • District Attorney Mike Fields, president of the Oklahoma District Attorneys Association
  • Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater
  • Oklahoma County Public Defender Robert Ravitz
  • YWCA of Oklahoma City CEO Jan Peery
  • Layne Subera, chairman of OBN Commission
  • Adam Luck, member, Board of Corrections

The Crime and Justice Institute and the Pew Charitable Trusts will provide technical assistance to the task force. The groups have helped other states, including Georgia, Mississippi, South Dakota and Utah, with justice reform strategies over the past several years.