Special Report: How Actions by Governor’s Staff Led to Weakened State Justice Reforms, by Clifton Adcock, Oklahoma Watch
Oklahoma’s incarceration rate is one of the highest in the nation. Oklahoma incarcerates the most women in the United States and is the third highest state in incarceration of men. According to Oklahoma’s Big Brothers Big Sisters, which recently lost its federal funding to its Mentoring Children of Prisoner’s Program, 27,000 children in Oklahoma have one or both parents in prison today. The concern over Oklahoma’s increasing prison population and ripple effect on its citizens makes this latest lost opportunity even more discouraging. -CCE
Note: Oklahoma Watch is offering this detailed, 4,500-word story on events that led up to changes in the state’s most significant justice-reform effort in recent history. With Oklahoma having some of the nation’s highest incarceration rates, hopes soared in 2012 among leaders and residents when the Justice Reinvestment Initiative was signed into law. Others viewed it skeptically. Newly released records reveal what happened in state government that led to a weakening of the original plan for implementing the reforms.
Behind-the-scenes moves by Gov. Mary Fallin’s senior staff members helped lead to a severe weakening of a program designed to cut the state’s high incarceration rates and save taxpayers more than $200 million over a decade, according to interviews and records obtained by Oklahoma Watch.
The efforts by the governor’s staff, assisted by legislative leaders, to take control of the Justice Reinvestment Initiative took place during periods when staff members met with representatives of private prison companies, which stood to gain or lose depending on how the initiative was implemented, emails and logs of visitors to Fallin’s offices show.