By Shaun Hittle
The Norman Transcript
NORMAN — Oklahoma continues to imprison people at one of the highest rates in the nation, ranking fourth in the latest report from the Bureau of Justice Statistics.
Oklahoma, which has seen prison populations increase steadily over the past several decades, incarcerated 648 residents per 100,000 population in 2012, according to the study released Thursday. That's up 2.5 percent, from 632 in 2011.
Oklahoma trails only Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama in overall imprisonment rates. In incarceration of women, the state leads the country, with a rate of 127 per 100,000 residents. The state’s rate of female incarceration has been the subject of numerous studies and news stories in recent years. Oklahoma also led the country in female incarceration in 2011.
Nationally, the number of people incarcerated in the United States dipped for the third straight year. In contrast, Oklahoma's prison population increased by 3.4 percent, from 25,321 in 2011 to 26,194 in 2012, according to end-of-year Oklahoma Department of Corrections reports.
The Oklahoma prison system is operating at more than 98 percent capacity. County jail systems are backed up with inmates awaiting transfer to the state system, but prison officials say they're having trouble handling the steady increases in the inmate population.
Oklahoma Watch is a nonprofit organization that produces in-depth and investigative journalism on important public-policy issues facing the state.