The Norman Transcript

Editorials

March 15, 2014

Be smart on crime

NORMAN — Locking up prisoners for longer terms and giving them no incentive to behave properly creates a safety issue for correctional officers and other inmates.

State House members voted down a bill that would have eventually eased crowding in state prisons because one member warned it would make them look soft on crime. The bill had the backing of the state correctional officers association, the new state corrections director and the district attorney’s council.

The legislation, which failed 26-62, would have allowed inmates whose crimes fell under the 85 percent rule to earn credits for good behavior as soon as they begin serving their terms. By law, those prisoners can’t earn credits until they serve 85 percent of their sentence.

State Rep. Bobby Cleveland, R-Slaughterville, likely has more correctional officers in his district than any other House district. Cleveland had promoted House Bill 2732l as a way to reduce overcrowding.

“We’ve got to start doing things different than we’re doing,” Cleveland told an Oklahoma City newspaper. “It’s not working.”

Indeed, state prisons are bursting at the seams and sentenced inmates wait for beds in county jails. Private prisons are more than willing to step in and accept our inmates, but that just buys our way out of immediate problems.

The state pays a price for its tough-on-crime stance.

Incarcerating prisoners for longer periods than necessary siphons money that could be used for more productive state services and capital improvements.

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