OKC adjusts judicial processes to cut incarceration

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

by Brian Brus

The Journal Record

The number of people put in jail in Oklahoma City for municipal charges has dropped more than 40 percent since 2015, Police Chief Bill Citty said.

And the number of days that detainees spent in jail declined even more, nearly 55 percent for the same period. The result is a significant economic savings to the city, Citty said.

“A lot of it’s just common sense policing and adjusting our judicial processes,” Citty said. “If you’re keeping people in jail, you’re not improving anything, especially if it’s because they can’t afford to pay and post bail.”

The police department has been working on improving the processes that are part of the justice system, such as buying 300 body-worn cameras to be worn during most public interactions and training to reduce implicit biases. Citty has been a big proponent of increased use of personal recognizance releases to reduce the number of days detainees spend behind bars as they wait for a court date.

“Most of the charges we’re looking at would be considered minor crimes,” he said. “Some of them will be repeat offenders, and we’ll have to deal with that. But most of them were sitting in jail for long periods for property crimes or larceny.

Because of those efforts, the total number of people incarcerated on municipal charges dropped from 12,908 in fiscal year 2015 to just 7,513 in fiscal year 2018. For the same period, inmate days fell from 48,045 to 22,136.

In fiscal year 2015, the city’s contract with the Oklahoma County Jail cost $2.61 million. It dropped to $1.41 million for the most recently ended fiscal year, and for the 2019 fiscal year that started July 1, the price was set at $1.11 million. Each year the contract price is adjusted to reflect actual costs from the previous period, so the number does not constrain how many detainees police officers can bring to the jail if necessary.

Mark Opgrande, speaking on Sheriff P.D. Taylor’s behalf, said reducing the jail population is something the county is working on as well.

Read the story at The Journal Record.