Speaking as a taxpayer and recent crime victim, I must respond to the “Perpetual Incarceration” letter submitted by Mr. Garner on Dec. 13.
According to Mr. Garner, all of us can blame Oklahoma’s recidivism and incarceration rates on budget cuts, pay raises and program cuts. He asserts this has led to taking funds from other agencies to fund Corrections (ODOC), job security for ODOC employees and property tax increases to support the cost of incarceration.
According to the public record: Since the recession, the ODOC budget has been either stagnant or cut. Every area in the agency was trimmed. State employees have not received a pay raise in nearly seven years.
Job security? In the last three years, ODOC staffing was gutted by voluntary buyouts and furloughs in an effort to stay within a budget wrecked by the recession. Current ODOC staffing remains at 69 percent.
Due to budget constraints, programs were cut. Reminder though, the responsibility of ODOC is public safety. Rehabilitation is the individual’s responsibility. When money is tight, taxpayer-funded extras have to go. Funds were not diverted from other agencies to fund ODOC. All agencies experienced cuts.
Property taxes are used locally, not for funding ODOC. The $20,000 Mr. Garner talks about is the cost of properly feeding, clothing, housing, transporting and providing proper medical care for those like Mr. Garner, who have chosen to victimize those of us who pay the bill. Since 1992, Mr. Garner has served time for bogus checks, auto theft, attempted escape, forgery, escape, and concealing stolen property in four different counties; the latest in Garfield County. In his letter, Mr. Garner laid all the blame for his recidivism on the system; none on himself.
Mr. Garner asked, “When is enough enough?” How many Oklahoma crime victims have asked the same question?