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Politics

Criminal Justice Reform Absent From Oklahoma Gov. Stitt's Address

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LEGISLATIVE SERVICE BUREAU PHOTOGRAPHY
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Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt gives his annual State of the State address on February 1, 2021.

In his speech marking the start of the year’s legislative session on Monday, Governor Kevin Stitt didn’t mention ongoing efforts to reduce the state’s prison population and overhaul the criminal justice system.

Kris Steele with Oklahomans for Criminal Justice Reform says Stitt's State of the State address was a disappointment.

"I don’t think we can be a top 10 state until we get out of the bottom 10," said Steele. "Right now we are among the worst in the amount of people we are incarcerating per capita."

The state has made progress. The Vera Institute of Justice reports Oklahoma reduced its prison population by 22% in four years.

However, Steele says there’s a lot more work to do. This session reform advocates are once again asking lawmakers to eliminate harsher punishments for repeat nonviolent offenders, and invest more funding in mental health and substance abuse treatment.

Advocates also hope lawmakers vote to redefine and expand eligibility for medical parole and improve health care in prisons.

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