The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

January 7, 2014

No easy answers to growing crisis in the state prison system

Enid News and Eagle

ENID, Okla. — In 2012, Oklahoma lawmakers passed the Justice Reinvestment Initiative.

The intention was to trim Oklahoma’s costs through a more efficient Department of Corrections, while still offering inmates critical services.

Recent reports from Oklahoma Watch, The Oklahoman, the Tulsa World and The Associated Press show Gov. Mary Fallin’s administration undermined this initiative, which remains largely undone, according to AP.

Thanks in part to term limits, the current Legislature is too young to remember the 1970s prison riots in McAlester.

“We’ve got the potential for that again,” Republican Jed Wright, elected to the Oklahoma Senate in the 1980s, told AP. “There’s a train wreck coming around the corner.”

For the last two decades, prison officials have warned legislators about our state prison system’s growing crisis.

The problem is real, and there are no easy answers.

We realize state leaders are afraid of appearing soft on crime, but the downside to locking up and throwing away the key is that taxpayers bear the heavy burden of cost.

The answer should be logical and balanced for each case.

If the drug court is the best solution, go with that. If probation and parole are effective, use more of those solutions.

If incarceration is the final option — and rehabilitation is possible — use the least expensive level of confinement.