Oklahoma and Oklahoma City have both enjoyed many accolades that point to our healthy business climate, ideal quality of life and low cost of doing business. However, there are a few rankings relating to our criminal justice system that we can’t brag about. Oklahoma has the second-highest incarceration rate in the country and the highest incarceration rate for females. If nothing changes, we can estimate that our prison system will grow by 25 percent in the next decade, which will cost taxpayers $2 billion – which is a 400 percent increase over the current prison system budget. Currently, Oklahoma County’s jail population is nearly double the facility’s capacity and is under threat of takeover by the Department of Justice – leading to substantial potential costs to county taxpayers. Clearly, we cannot continue down these paths. The Chamber is speaking up for a smarter, safer criminal justice system at both the state and local level through its Oklahoma County Criminal Justice Reform Task Force.
The Chamber task force has recommended two changes in state law for the current legislative session, both authored by Sen. David Holt: SB 342, which would create a task force to study fines, fees and costs imposed throughout the criminal justice system and how the money raised is spent; and SB 363, which would allow special judges in Oklahoma and Tulsa counties to sign pretrial release orders which would help reduce the number of people being held prior to trial in the Oklahoma County jail. Both of these bills have unanimously passed the Senate Public Safety Committee and are eligible to be heard on the Senate floor.
We believe that these two bills continue the momentum of criminal justice reform throughout the state and will lead to a more effective and affordable system. Please join me in voicing your support for SB 342 and SB 363 to your elected officials this legislative session.