prison overcrowding

Quinton Chandler / StateImpact Oklahoma

In 2016, Oklahoma voters passed two state questions intended to reduce the state’s prison population. Every year since, lawmakers have introduced bills designed to help decrease the number of people serving time.

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Twenty-one people were released from state prisons Wednesday after Gov. Mary Fallin commuted their sentences for drug-related crimes.

Fallin reduced the sentences for 20 women and one man to time-served. A spokesperson for the governor’s office said the people were released the same day Fallin signed their commutations.

A criminal justice reform advocacy group helped the people receive rare recommendations for reduced sentences from the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board last month. In one recent year, the board made similar recommendations for only 19 of 477 applicants. 

Kate Carlton Greer / Oklahoma Public Media Exchange

The Oklahoma Department of Corrections is asking lawmakers for $1.57 billion in funding for next year, a budget request anchored by money for new prison beds and medicine for hepatitis C.

The agency’s supervisory board on Oct. 30 unanimously approved the budget request for lawmakers to consider during the 2019 legislative session.

Quinton Chandler / StateImpact Oklahoma

It’s impossible to predict who will commit a crime in the future, but clinicians at a program funded by the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services think it’s possible to make an educated guess at who’s a higher risk. 

The agency is expanding a program officials say helps courts match people with appropriate punishments for their circumstances. Increasing the number of these defendant screenings will connect more Oklahomans with care and assistance, which agency spokesperson Jeff Dismukes said will mean fewer people are sentenced to overcrowded prisons

Quinton Chandler / StateImpact Oklahoma

Every day, Oklahoma Department of Corrections Director Joe Allbaugh sits at his desk and tries to make a severely overcrowded, understaffed prison system work.

“I’ve been preoccupied with trying to figure out where we’re going to put all these people because we’re way over capacity,” Allbaugh said.

Quinton Chandler / StateImpact Oklahoma

The Oklahoma Department of Corrections was a frequent topic for lawmakers during this year’s legislative session. The department was given an additional $8.75 million to balance its books for fiscal year 2018 and more than $517 million for fiscal year 2019 that began July 1. 

Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

Oklahoma has now overtaken Louisiana as the state with the highest incarceration rate in the country, according to data from the Prison Policy Initiative.

Here & Now‘s Jeremy Hobson speaks with John Carl, a professor of sociology and criminology at the University of Oklahoma, about how the rate got so high and what kind of overhaul is in motion.

The number of people incarcerated in American prisons is the lowest it's been in decades. But a new report from The Vera Institute of Justice, a nonprofit research group that wants to limit mass incarceration in the United States, tells a more complex story.

Quinton Chandler / StateImpact Oklahoma

Baby Roman is just waking up from his afternoon nap and now he’s looking for a toy. His grandfather, Frank McCarrell, is trying to distract him from the house’s décor with a bottle of milk.

“He don’t usually be asleep this time,” said McCarrell, who just finished his workday to babysit for his daughter. “When I come home … usually he’s up and raring to go. Huh? You be running Papa around?

QUINTON CHANDLER/STATEIMPACT OKLAHOMA

Gov. Mary Fallin signed seven criminal justice reform bills this week ending a bumpy ride for legislation designed to curb prison population growth in Oklahoma.

Fallin says the measures represent smart ways to protect public safety, keep families together — and save taxpayer money.

Most of the legislation was introduced in 2017 but stalled in committee. This year, the bills were reconsidered after compromises between legislators, district attorneys and other government agencies.

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