The Norman Transcript


January 5, 2014

Uncertain future for state prisons



“In the past I think that might have been true, but I don’t think that’s true anymore,” Mullins said.

Oklahoma, in a network of public and private prisons, halfway houses and community corrections centers, incarcerates the nation’s highest percentage of its women (1.27 out of every 1,000) and the fourth-highest percentage of men (11.78).

From 2000 to 2010, Oklahoma’s inmate population grew at a rate faster than the state’s population and corrections funding rose more than 30 percent.

The Fallin administration, acting on Open Records requests filed by the AP, the World and Oklahoman, last month released nearly 8,000 pages of documents detailing how the initiative crested toward approval, then crashed into a heap that leaves the bloated corrections system virtually unchanged.

Some emails indicated concern about political implications.

“My thought is why further tie ourselves to liberal corrections reforms groups?” chief of staff Denise Northrup wrote in a discussion about whether Oklahoma should participate in a joint European-American prison project.

Shared among the staff was a Sooner Tea Party newsletter deriding JRI as “soft on crime” and a separate news article in which the House minority leader, a Democrat, said Fallin’s biggest fear in 2014 would be a challenge from the right.

Tea party favorite Randy Brogdon announced Christmas Day he would challenge Fallin in June’s GOP primary.

Mullins, who speaks for the administration on JRI matters, said Fallin supports a new corrections policy and that it is being put in place.

“I don’t think that the traditional, old-fashioned conservative position of lock up more people and throw away the key is good for Oklahoma or good for corrections,” Fallin said.

Several key provisions of JRI remain unfunded. The working group charged with seeing the law through hasn’t met since 2012 — and was largely dismantled after its two chairmen resigned out of frustration.

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