Oklahoma Lawmaker Proposes Plan to Let Nearly Half the State's Inmates out of Prison

Nov 5, 2019

A day after Oklahoma released more than 450 people from prison for commuted felony sentences, a state lawmaker proposed a new corrections model.

Republican Rep. Justin Humphrey wants to set up a community corrections system. Under the proposal, 300 county-level probation and parole officers would be moved under the Department of Corrections to oversee 12,000 inmates on supervised release — nearly half the state’s current prison population of roughly 25,500.

Inmates serving sentences for nonviolent crimes or who don't have sex offenses would be released with a GPS monitor they would pay for. Monitoring would be contracted out to a private company, with data shared among all state law enforcement agencies.

The community corrections system's focus would be on keeping inmates out of prison with graduated sanctions and access to substance abuse treatment and job placement.

"When I’m talking about a radical plan, this is radical, OK? But guys, we’re the worst in the world, and we have to do something radical," Humphrey said.

Humphrey said parole officer salaries and electronic monitoring of inmates would be paid for with $10 out of the roughly $50 a day now spent to keep someone locked up. The remaining funds would go toward rebuilding Oklahoma's existing prisons and funding district attorneys, courts and substance abuse treatment.

A key component of the community corrections plan would be including career aptitude and skills testing in already required assessments to get those inmates to work.

"The No. 1 thing that you can do, it’s my understanding, to change criminal behavior and substance abuse behavior — what do you think it is? It’s employment. Well, Christ, too," Humphrey said.

Humphrey said he’s also in talks with developers about an algorithm using data on low-level probation violations to predict who might get into more serious trouble.

"So, it makes us bring him back in and put him on higher supervision on probation. So, we predict before they actually commit a crime. Now, can we be perfect on that? No. It’s just a process to help us do a better job," Humphrey said.

Humphrey said his plan is modeled on similar ones in Texas and Arizona.