prison overcrowding

This Week in Oklahoma Politics, KOSU's Michael Cross talks with Republican Political Consultant Neva Hill and ACLU Oklahoma Executive Director Ryan Kiesel about a prediction from Governor Fallin that she will be facing a shortfall of $500M to $600M for her executive budget and news that the Trump Administration is not picking her to be the Secretary of the Interior.

Kate Carlton Greer / Oklahoma Public Media Exchange

Oklahoma’s prisons are crowded, and the state continues to incarcerate offenders at the second- highest rate in the nation, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics. Two state questions on the November 8 ballot aim to ease both of those strains.  

This Week in Oklahoma Politics, KOSU's Michael Cross talks with ACLU Oklahoma Executive Director Ryan Kiesel and Republican Political Consultant Neva Hill about the political fallout over what has now become the strongest earthquake in Oklahoma history at 5.8 magnitude this past Saturday, the declaration by Governor Fallin of no special session to use $140M in surplus money for teacher raises and a lawsuit by medical marijuana supporters saying Attorney General Scott Pruitt's rewrite of their ballot initiative is biased.

Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

Gov. Mary Fallin announced a new criminal justice task force Wednesday. The 18-member group wants to have data-driven policy reforms proposed in time for the 2017 legislative session.

Fallin says The Oklahoma Justice Reform Task Force aims to reduce Oklahoma’s prison population while maintaining public safety and controlling the ever-increasing cost of the the state’s corrections system. Annually, Oklahoma pays roughly $500 million to the Department of Corrections.

An Oklahoma inmate died Wednesday night after a disturbance broke out at the Mack Alford Correctional Center in Stringtown.

In a press release describing the incident, Department of Corrections Director Joe Allbaugh called the knife fight “senseless violence” and vowed to look for a motive.

“We have launched a full-scale investigation into the situation,” Allbaugh said. “We will ensure the proper measures are taken to better manage these situations in the future.”

Governor Mary Fallin on Friday vetoed a bill mandating pardon and parole board hearings for inmates convicted of crimes requiring payment of 85 percent of a sentence. 

House Bill 3159 earned almost unanimous support in both the House and the Senate during the 55th legislative session.

This Week in Oklahoma Politics, KOSU's Michael Cross talks with ACLU Oklahoma Executive Director Ryan Kiesel and Republican Political Consultant Neva Hill about a new practice by the Oklahoma Highway Patrol to seize funds off of credit, debit and pre-paid cards, new measures signed into law by Governor Fallin and new state questions going to voters to deal with overcrowding in state prison.

VICTOR / FLICKR.COM

With a looming $1.3 billion hole in the state budget, an overcrowded prison system and the urging of the state's conservative governor, Oklahoma's Republican-led Legislature this year successfully pushed some significant changes to its criminal justice system.

The passage of four measures to slow the explosive prison growth was no small feat in an election year in a state where tough-on-crime policies have been a staple of both political parties for decades and with one of the highest incarceration rates in the country.

A group wanting criminal justice reform measures on November’s ballot submitted more than 200,000 signatures to the Oklahoma Secretary of State’s office Thursday.

The two state questions complement new laws passed during the 2016 legislative session.

A 66-year-old Oklahoma inmate serving life in prison for possessing an ounce of cocaine was denied parole Tuesday, months after the governor modified his sentence in a way that allowed early release to be an option.

The state's Pardon and Parole Board voted 5-0 to deny parole to Larry Yarbrough, who's been imprisoned since 1997. The reasons for the denial weren't immediately given, and a parole board official couldn't be reached for comment.

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