The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

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December 30, 2013

Special Report: Actions by Fallin’s staff led to weakened state justice reforms

(Continued)

OKLAHOMA CITY —

Messages left with Corrections Corporation of America and Geo Group officials were not returned.

Steele said in an interview that the governor’s and attorney general’s offices were not seriously committed to the JRI reforms. Emails show Mullins and Chief of Staff Northrup wanted Steele off the JRI group once his term as Speaker of the House ended. He left the House because he was term-limited.

Steele said in an interview that he believed the view of the governor’s staff was “that I would be gone in a year and the issue would go away. I think ultimately, that’s what they were counting on.”

Mullins said instead that in pushing the bill, Fallin’s office wanted to see the group overseeing implementation of the JRI  reformed and codified into state law so that it had statutory authority and political muscle to implement change in the system.

“It wasn’t the committee we needed to get the job done,” he said.

Reforms Win Approval

On May 10, 2012, Fallin signed into law House Bill 3052, or the Justice Reinvestment Initiative.

The signing was the culmination of a more than year-long effort in which Oklahoma sought assistance from the U.S. Department of Justice and the Pew Center on the States to implement a “justice reinvestment initiative.” As part of this, the Council of State Governments conducted a study of Oklahoma’s criminal justice system and returned in January 2012 with recommendations that led to the bill.

The idea behind the law, authored by Steele and Senate President Pro Tem Brian Bingman, was to increase the use of sentencing alternatives and other reforms to steer nonviolent offenders away from prison, which would save on prison costs, then reinvest the savings in public-safety efforts.

The law required post-release supervision of felons, recommended diversion programs for non-violent and drug offenders and established a grant program for local law-enforcement agencies. The concept had been successfully implemented in other states, including Texas.

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