Monday, May 14, 2012

Criminal Justice Reform Signed into Law

The statewide public safety plan developed through Oklahoma’s Justice Reinvestment Initiative has been signed into law by Gov. Mary Fallin.
“Increasing public safety is a top priority of my administration and a primary function of state government. The reforms in HB 3052 will help to reduce crime and ensure our streets are safer for Oklahoma families,” Fallin said. “In addition to lowering crime rates, reducing the incarceration rate and giving law enforcement more resources to fight crime, this bill will help us to save taxpayer dollars by helping our corrections system operate in a more efficient and effective way.”
Criminal justice stakeholders from across the state stood in support Thursday as Fallin ceremoniously signed House Bill 3052. The bill, authored by House Speaker Kris Steele and Senate President Pro Tempore Brian Bingman, was formally signed Wednesday.
“Today marks the beginning of a tougher, smarter fight against crime,” said Steele, R-Shawnee. “Police will get more resources, offenders will be held more accountable, prisons will have the space to incapacitate dangerous criminals and Oklahoma will be much safer as a result. We’re thrilled to have been part of the unprecedented collaboration across our entire criminal justice system that has delivered this meaningful law to the people of Oklahoma.”
HB 3052 establishes a grant program to fund crime reduction initiatives by local law enforcement agencies, requires at least nine months of post-release supervision of all felons, establishes risk, mental health and substance abuse assessments and evaluations prior to sentencing for those found guilty of a felony, and initiates a series of other strategic reforms designed to control prison growth and implement strategies to increase public safety.
“We’ve made a historic public safety reform that puts Oklahoma’s broken criminal justice system back on a sustainable path,” said Bingman, R-Sapulpa. “By being both tough on crime and fiscally conservative, this law will reduce violent crime, give crime fighters the tools to do their job and ensure our criminal justice system keeps Oklahoma families and communities safe.”
HB 3052 goes into effect on Nov. 1.
The bill won widespread bipartisan support in a state that has traditionally been hesitant to address the root causes of its nation-leading incarceration rates and poor public safety rankings.
“We’re now making decisions based on facts instead of decisions based on emotions and anecdotes that led to some of the problems this bill addresses,” said Steele, who has made criminal justice reform a legislative priority during his final three years in office. “The bill achieved what we wanted and needed and the state now has the opportunity to do even more in the future.”
HB 3052 is expected to save $170 million in the next decade, allowing for a reinvestment of $110 million in proven strategies to increase public safety. HB 3052 was signed one year to the day after Fallin signed House Bill 2131, by Steele, a corrections reform bill that is expected to save $5 million in the next five years by diverting certain low-risk, nonviolent offenders to more effective, less expensive alternative incarceration programs. HB 2131 built upon HB 2998 from 2010, which set up pilot programs offering alternative sentencing options to certain low-risk, nonviolent female offenders. In addition, a state question before voters in November would end Oklahoma’s distinction as the only state requiring gubernatorial review of all paroles by removing the governor from the parole process for low-risk, nonviolent offenders. Approval of the state question would make the criminal justice system more efficient and save up to $40 million in the next decade. Combined, these policies would save more than $200 million over the next decade while also increasing public safety.
“The tide has truly turned,” Steele said. “The achievements of the past three years have been significant, but they are by no means the end of this issue. These policies must be sustained and expanded in the years to come and I am confident they will be, given the strong stance policymakers have taken by enacting these critical reforms. I’m honored to have been a part of it and will continue doing what I can to help advance the cause.”
HB 3052 was developed through the Justice Reinvestment Initiative, a data-driven review of the state’s criminal justice system designed to improve public safety by reinvesting resources in programs proven to reduce crime and control prison growth. Oklahoma’s Justice Reinvestment Initiative (JRI) began in June 2011 and was led by a 20-member, bipartisan, inter-branch working group co-chaired by Steele.
“Our state’s leaders are to be commended for taking on an issue of such magnitude, complexity and importance. From here, Oklahoma must continue down the course charted by this legislation,” said JRI working group co-chair Don Millican, a business leader who is chairman of the Oklahoma Christian University board of trustees.
Data analysis and technical assistance for JRI in Oklahoma was provided by the Council of State Governments (CSG) Justice Center, which has helped 16 other states develop policies to increase public safety by making better use of taxpayer dollars. At the direction of Oklahoma’s JRI working group, the Justice Center staff analyzed over 700,000 individual records and held meetings with hundreds of criminal justice experts and stakeholders statewide. Justice Center officials will continue assisting Oklahoma as it focuses on implementing the new policies.
“By leveraging the latest data and research, Oklahoma is able to invest more effectively in increasing public safety and reducing crime,” said Marshall Clement, director of state initiatives at the CSG Justice Center. “The Justice Center will keep assisting Oklahoma officials moving forward to ensure the state meets its goals through better supervision, treatment and programs for offenders who need it most.”
The CSG Justice Center’s justice reinvestment efforts are a partnership with the Pew Center on the States and the U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Assistance. 

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