The Norman Transcript

Opinion

March 11, 2014

Director tackles prison overcrowding

NORMAN — The state’s new corrections director has arrived and hit the ground running. Robert Patton is looking at ways to reduce the inmate population and make space for sentenced inmates who are now backing up in county jails.

Patton, according to published reports, formed a population management team to address the crowded prison issue. His agency is spending millions reimbursing counties for costs incurred for holding sentenced inmates until a prison bed is open.

Cleveland County’s detention center is packed with state prisoners. The sheriff gets paid a daily rate, but he maintains it’s not enough to compensate for extra employees and added stress on the system.

Another way to reduce inmate numbers is through legislation. State Rep. Bobby Cleveland, R-Slaughterville, filed a bill that would give early release credits for those prisoners whose crime fits the 85 percent rule, meaning they are required to serve 85 percent of their sentence before being eligible for parole.

For years, lawmakers have “piled on” to punish inmates by adding more crimes to the 85 percent rule. That “tough on crime” stance comes with a price.

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