The Norman Transcript

Headlines

January 6, 2014

Prison problem

NORMAN — Editors note: Part Two of a two-part look by reporters from The Associated Press, the Tulsa World and The Oklahoman into the implementation of the Justice Reinvestment Initiative. using documents obtained from the governor through an Open Records Act request.

OKLAHOMA CITY — When Republican Jed Wright was first elected to the Oklahoma Senate in the 1980s, he thought the 8,000 inmates and $100 million annual price tag for the state’s prison system were too much.

Fast-forwarding 25 years over a career that also included stints as a member of the Oklahoma Sentencing Commission and the Board of Corrections, Wright has seen Oklahoma’s prison population explode to nearly 27,000 inmates and the state’s corrections budget approach a half-billion dollars each year.

Oklahoma legislators in 2012 passed the Justice Reinvestment Initiative, intended to trim the state’s costs through a leaner Department of Corrections, while still providing critical services to inmates. The Associated Press, The Oklahoman and the Tulsa World, reviewing 8,000 pages of JRI-related documents obtained from Gov. Mary Fallin, found her administration at times undermined the initiative, much of which remains undone or unfunded.

But even if all the JRI initiatives had been fully implemented, the package of reforms was only designed to curb inmate growth, not stop it. Many contend any real progress on inmate growth won’t be achieved without a complete overhaul of the state’s harsh criminal sentencing codes, a major political challenge in a conservative state with a tough-on-crime reputation that pre-dates statehood.

Of the state’s $7.1 billion budget this year, the Department of Corrections consumed more than $460 million, an amount most experts say is woefully inadequate to run crumbling prisons bursting at the seams with mostly nonviolent offenders.

Prison guards, whose pay starts at $11.83 per hour, work mandatory 60-hour work weeks at about half of the state’s 17 prisons, where staffing ratios of officers to offenders are among the worst in the nation and veteran guards say morale is at an all-time low.

Text Only | Photo Reprints
Headlines
  • Fracking Operation Norman library to host community dialogue about fracking

    Are Oklahoma oil companies an oligarchy that is controlling state policy? Is fracking safe? These and other topics will be the subject of an upcoming Fracking Forum from 7 to 8:30 p.m. Aug. 11 in the Norman Public Library’s Lowry Room, 225 ...

    July 24, 2014 1 Photo

  • Information scarce on ‘dark money’ group in Oklahoma superintendent campaign

    An independent expenditure group that paid for television advertisements opposing State Superintendent Janet Barresi in last month’s primary has not filed required spending reports with the Oklahoma Ethics Commission....

    July 24, 2014

  • Medical examiner says inmate died of an accidental drug overdose

    The Oklahoma Medical Examiner’s Office on Wednesday said a woman found dead in the Cleveland County jail Feb. 23 died of a drug overdose....

    July 24, 2014

  • Ride CART fare free on Ozone Alert Day

    Environmental officials have declared today as an Ozone Alert Day. Passengers ride fare free on Cleveland Area Rapid Transit on Ozone Alert Days....

    July 24, 2014

  • Board votes to delay plan

    OKLAHOMA CITY — Oklahoma’s State Board of Education voted on Wednesday for a second time to delay a formal plan for adopting new education standards in math and English amid opposition to the proposal from three education groups that ...

    July 24, 2014

  • Arizona inmate dies two hours after execution begins

    PHOENIX — A condemned Arizona inmate gasped and snorted for more than an hour and a half during his execution Wednesday before he died in an episode sure to add to the scrutiny surrounding the death penalty in the U.S....

    July 24, 2014

  • Man injured in motorcycle wreck ID’d

    Norman police identified a man transported to Norman Regional Hospital’s emergency room after a two-vehicle collision involving a motorcycle and a car Wednesday....

    July 24, 2014

  • Wine, Organ and Compline at St. Thomas More

    St. Thomas More University Parish, 100 Stinson St., is hosting the Wine, Organ and Compline at 7 p.m. today. The series will begin with a wine and cheese gathering in the atrium, followed by an organ recital presented by guest organist ...

    July 24, 2014

  • 48 dead after Taiwan plane crash

    TAIPEI, Taiwan — Family members of victims of a plane crash were flying to the small Taiwanese island today where the plane had unsuccessfully attempted to land in stormy weather, killing 48. There were 10 survivors, and authorities were ...

    July 24, 2014

  • Felonies filed

    The following persons were charged with felony counts in the Cleveland County Court Clerk’s Office: · Kenneth Leo Turk, 64, aggravated count of driving a motor vehicle under the influence of alcohol · Kelly Revonn Turner, 21, ...

    July 24, 2014