|Bill for non-violent offenders advances|
Reform bill for non-violent offenders advances
Oklahoma’s prisons are currently at 99 percent capacity and the Oklahoma Department of Corrections is operating on a bare-bones work force. With approximately 60 percent of Oklahoma’s current inmates considered low-risk offenders who have committed non-violent offenses a smart on crime approach requires that we analyze our current corrections framework and distinguish between low-risk, non-violent offenders and those who pose a threat to society.
House Bill 2131, which was passed by the House last week, is a measure that does just that by proposing changes that promote rehabilitation, treatment and education for non-violent offenders as well as save tax-payer money. There are four main provisions that accomplish this goal by allowing low-risk offenders to gain valuable skills and return to society sooner both of which also decrease the risk of recidivism.
The first change the bill proposes is making default sentencing concurrent rather than consecutive. This will mean that offenders who receive multiple non-violent convictions will be able serve their sentences at the same time. This will mean they can return to society sooner - opening up space in DOC facilities and saving money.
The bill also changes the parole process so that once an offender is granted a parole recommendation it must be dealt with in a timely manner. The bill says that with the exception of some violent offenses if the governor does not act on a parole recommendation within 30 days, the recommendation is deemed granted. In the past this process has taken up to six months at an average cost of about $55 per day per inmate.
The bill also expands the use of community sentencing to include non-violent offenders with a prior felony conviction. Community sentencing allows offenders to remain in the community, work to support their families, and receive mandatory treatment. By allowing inmates to remain in the community, they are able to learn valuable skills such as welding and machining that help them attain good paying jobs once they complete the program. Studies have shown that participating in community sentencing programs decreases the risk of re-offending.
A final component of the bill expands the electronic monitoring program. Under the proposed change DOC offenders serving less than five years for a non-violent offense, are eligible for electronic monitoring after 90 days in DOC custody. This provision cuts that number from 180 days. Again this will save the state money while cutting down on the overcrowding in our state’s DOC facilities.
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