Guice, the corrections director from North Carolina, said his state has been fortunate, with a supportive governor and a legislature that stepped up funding significantly for justice reforms. Because of early success, Guice said the program received $18 million this year to implement more of the reforms.
North Carolina’s program is expected to save a total of $560 million by 2017.
In Oklahoma the corrections system is nearly maxed out. In July, prison officials contracted for 300 more private prison beds as a stopgap measure for a system that’s at 98 percent capacity. At the Board of Corrections meeting in July, officials said the state already is short by about $10 to $15 million to handle the increasing population this year.
“It’s going to cost us,” said Rep. Gus Blackwell, R-Laverne, who’s heading a House study on how the state should handle the growing inmate population. Blackwell estimates the state will need an additional $25 to $30 million in next year’s budget just to address overcrowding at corrections facilities.
Guice said while he couldn’t speak to Oklahoma’s corrections problems, a national roadmap for reducing prison populations is quickly forming based on the success of JRI in his state and others.
“Look at what’s happening across the country,” he said.
Oklahoma Watch is a nonprofit organization that produces in-depth and investigative journalism on important public-policy issues facing the state. For more Oklahoma Watch content, go to www.oklahomawatch.org.