Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Report outlines comprehensive public safety approach

OKLAHOMA CITY (Jan. 11, 2012) – After more than half a year of intensive analysis and collaboration, a bipartisan group of Oklahoma leaders today released a report on how to reduce violent crime statewide by 10 percent by 2016 and provide post-prison supervision for all felons while containing growth in prison costs.
The report recommends a number of strategic reforms in criminal justice policy  projected to save $249 million over the next decade, making it possible to allocate more than $40 million to local law enforcement agencies to implement proven crime-fighting initiatives while reinvesting additional savings in strengthening victim/witness services, , probation supervision, drug treatment and other programs.
The report is a product of the Justice Reinvestment Initiative, a data-driven analysis of the state’s criminal justice system led by the Council of State Governments (CSG) Justice Center in partnership with the Pew Center on the States and the U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Assistance. The JRI process was guided by a 20-member working group of state and local criminal justice stakeholders established by the governor and legislative leaders following last year’s legislative session.
House Speaker Kris Steele, co-chairman of Oklahoma’s Justice Reinvestment Working Group, plans to carry legislation next session based on the group’s findings.
“Oklahoma has just been given a blueprint for a surgical strike against crime based on comprehensive facts, data analysis and proven strategies. The policy proposals are tough, smart, strategic and fiscally sustainable all at once, so I intend to get to work immediately with all stakeholders to develop legislation based on these findings to consider next session,” said Steele, R-Shawnee. “Throughout this process, the resounding message we’ve heard is Oklahoma must find a better way to address crime if we are truly serious about increasing public safety. We think we’ve found that better way, which is fantastic, given that the path we’ve been on is unsustainable no matter how you slice it.”
Gov. Mary Fallin was among the state leaders who requested that Oklahoma conduct a justice reinvestment analysis of its criminal justice system.
“Increasing public safety is a top priority of this administration. Protecting our citizens and keeping Oklahoma safe is a core function of government and a key component to bringing growth, jobs and families to Oklahoma. For that reason, I am looking forward to reviewing the report and seeing what policy recommendations come out of it,” Fallin said. “I’d like to thank the working group and Speaker Steele for their efforts and for soliciting the input of dozens of elected officials, district attorneys, police chiefs, sheriffs, crime victims and others who have participated in this process. They have done a great job starting this important conversation about public safety and helping our corrections systems to operate in a way that is more efficient and effective.”
Don Millican, a business leader who is chairman of the Oklahoma Christian University Board of Trustees, co-chaired the working group along with Speaker Steele.
“This plan presents innovative strategies that can improve return on investment for the shareholders of this state, who are ultimately Oklahoma’s taxpayers,” Millican said. “Having just undergone the most comprehensive criminal justice system analysis in state history, my hope now is to see these proposals put into law, not put on a shelf.”
The policy recommendations in the report address a number of gaps within Oklahoma’s criminal justice system that were revealed through JRI’s comprehensive analyses and over the course of more than one hundred meetings involving approximately 350 experts and stakeholders around the state.
The report suggests the state can close those gaps by reinvesting a portion of state dollars that would have otherwise been spent on the growing prison population in strategies that research demonstrates will be more successful in increasing public safety. The proposed reinvestment is $6 million in the first year and up to $13 million annually until fiscal year 2021. The reinvestment would go to law enforcement grants, increased funding for victim and witness services in DA’s offices, more effective probation supervision and additional substance abuse treatment.
Specific findings and recommendations in the report include:

·        Help local law enforcement prevent violent crime with state grant funding for technology, overtime, crime analysis, and community partnerships. Unstable funding and increased demand has forced many agencies to simply triage calls for service rather than working proactively to prevent crime.

·        Require supervision for all felony offenders following their prison sentences. Currently, 51 percent of people exiting prison do so with no supervision.

·        Increase availability of substance abuse treatment. There is inadequate access to programs for people on supervision who are determined to be at a high-risk of reoffending and who have acute substance abuse problems.

·        Improve support provided to crime victims and witnesses through district attorneys’ offices. Victim-witness coordinators are key service providers that assist crime victims through the judicial process, but fluctuations in federal funding and local cuts have strained capacity in some jurisdictions.

Marshall Clement, division director for state initiatives at the CSG Justice Center, said the policy framework could increase public safety while constraining the growing cost of Oklahoma’s criminal justice system.
“This process began as a corrections initiative, but it’s become something much more comprehensive. Through this process, Oklahoma has crafted a statewide public safety plan to reduce violent crime, hold offenders more accountable, and control prison costs,” Clement said.
If legislation based on the report is successful, Oklahoma will join more than a dozen other states, including Texas, Kansas and North Carolina, that have successfully used the Justice Reinvestment Initiative to increase public safety by reallocating resources to address serious public safety threats, reduce recidivism and contain costs.
“Oklahoma is demonstrating to states everywhere how to bring together stakeholders and generate effective solutions,” said Richard Jerome, manager, Pew Center on the States’ Public Safety Performance Project. “This framework does a great job of showing how an inclusive, research-based process can produce policies that will cut crime and costs.”
“This data-driven, justice reinvestment approach allows a state to utilize the most up-to-date strategies in criminal justice while using existing funding and resources. That is a critical element in any bipartisan effort of this scale,” said Denise O’Donnell, Director of the Bureau of Justice Assistance in the U.S. Department of Justice.

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