Gov. Kevin Stitt traveled to Dallas over the weekend to participate in a panel at the Conservative Political Action Conference, known as CPAC.
The 2021 theme was "America Uncanceled," and Stitt took part in a panel discussion with Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee on leadership, justice and jobs in the age of "wokeism."
American Conservative Union Chairman Matt Schlapp moderated and presented criminal justice reform as a conservative endeavor, whereas liberals want to defund police.
A broad coalition of advocates and experts started work to reduce Oklahoma’s then-world-leading incarceration rate before Stitt took office. Stitt signed what’s believed to be the nation’s biggest one-day slate of commutations because of their efforts.
As Stitt told Schlapp, he’s also pushed to move forward with sentencing reform and lay the groundwork for people leaving prison to have state-issued ID and skills to get a job.
"But then you think about the DHS system and all the other drains on taxpayers. When you do that, it’s really a conservative approach. I closed a private prison in Oklahoma, saved the taxpayers $25 million. And so, we’re proud of that, and we think we should lead on this issue," Stitt said.
It’s unclear which prison Stitt was talking about. Because of a more than $24 million budget cut, the Oklahoma Department of Corrections canceled its contract with the Cimarron Correctional Facility operated by Core Civic in Cushing last year. A federal facility in Hinton closed because of an executive order from President Joe Biden to scale back the use of private prisons.
Schlapp leaned hard on the trope of liberals being extremists who want to defund the police, misrepresenting Biden’s recent announcement that $350 billion in state and local funding in the American Rescue Plan can be used to hire and support cops.
"That’s their argument, that they’re not for defunding the cops, matter of fact they’re for funding all the cops. And I just – as a guy that’s responsible for a state’s budget, I’d like to know what’s true," Schlapp said.
"Well, we haven’t got one penny from the feds to fund police. That’s all a state function, and we’re doubling down on backing the blue in the state of Oklahoma," Stitt said. "We’ve passed, we passed an anti-doxxing law this year to make sure that nobody can – we’re not going to publish where the police live. It’s not allowed – you can’t attack a police officer. We’re going to protect the immunity that they have."
The panel also covered differences in blue and red state pandemic restrictions, and the governors’ relationship with Biden.
While it was not a topic of discussion, the panel was bookended by a roughly two-minute video on how transgender athletes are ruining women’s sports.