Work release programs

Legislation approved by the Oklahoma House of Representatives and sent on to the governor would help with county jail overcrowding by allowing counties to develop work release programs for nonviolent misdemeanor offenders.

House Bill 3039, by state Rep. John Paul Jordan, creates the “Debt to Society Act of 2016” and authorizes county sheriffs and district attorneys to lay out the plan to put an inmate to work instead of jailing them. The inmate has to be convicted or pled guilty to a nonviolent misdemeanor offense and a judge has to sign off on the order.

“Instead of housing an inmate for 30 days, they would work for 30 days in this type of program,” said Jordan, R-Yukon. “Instead of the public paying all the costs associated with housing an inmate, we could be allowing them to work in order to serve time.”

The measure establishes that an eight-hour work day equals one full day of imprisonment in a county jail. The sentence of imprisonment may be reduced by earned early release time as promulgated by the sheriff and approved by the district attorney and limits the amount of earned early release time to not more than a third of the total sentence.