Posted by Edmond Geary | Posted in Criminal conviction, Justice system | Posted on 15-10-2011
A recent study has put some values on the criminal justice system in Oklahoma. The system is expensive and not very effective, consultants from the nonprofit Council of State Governments’ Justice System have urged in their preliminary report.
House of Representatives Speaker Kris Steele has moderated a presentation in three cities to date, Lawton, Enid and, most recently, Muskogee. The study is based on what it says is the data, and is aimed to reduce state spending in corrections so the savings can be reinvested in new ways to decrease crime and strengthen neighborhoods. The presentation is being made by a team of experts who are part of the Council’s Reinvestment program and claims to have helped a dozen states, including Kansas and Texas, redesign their corrections systems.
Speaker Steele remarked that Oklahoma has increased spending on corrections by 41 percent, yet violent crime has remained unchanged. He said, “at least 36 other states have seen decreases in violent crime during this same period.”
The project director of the Reinvestment program, Marshall Clement, said his team had focused on the major areas: Oklahoma has crime rates that are unchanged or are rising, unlike the rates in the national trends; a high percentage of inmates in Oklahoma are being released without supervision; and the incarceration population in Oklahoma is increasing at a rate that is unsustainable. The rates for murder over the last decade has declined 13 percent nationally, yet has remained unchanged in Oklahoma. During the same period, the rates for robberies has declined 18 percent nationally while increasing at the rate of 15 percent in Oklahoma.
What has caused these results? A tight cause and effect is hard to show in all cases of population behavior. Clement opined that perhaps the decline was influenced by the decline in the number of police per capita, at least in Tulsa and Oklahoma City. He noted that the police force in Norman had increased by 18 percent with adjustment for population increase while witnessing a 48 percent decrease in violent crime. Of course, the only certainty from much of this statistic-quoting is a headache. George Berkeley reminds us that finding effect from cause can be nothing but speculation.
One of the interest the program pointed out does merit looking at. Many inmates prefer to serve a little more of their sentences before obtaining full release from their sentence rather than getting out earlier under parole and all the supervision requirement of parole. The federal system requires supervision under “supervised release” after every completion of every sentence. You would expect their recidivism rates to be better, just from that. But the federal system seems to have an inexhaustible supply of money to fund their programs. And one of the objections made by Oklahoma inmates to accepting to the supervision of parole, so it is reported, is the cost of supervision. That is understandable because the $100 per month charge for this and other such charges can add up for someone who is barely earning enough to pay his expenses and the court costs that are still waiting to be paid.
The federal probation officers actively and successfully assist in getting their charges jobs and charge fees according to the income that inmate is earning. That system is designed for the inmate to succeed, unlike the state system that tends to dump a pile of rules and regulations on a few overworked parole officers who can barely keep up, much less help their parolees meet the extra challenges of re-entering society, given all the challenges they face.
Inescapable in the discussion of exploding prison populations was the issue of 85 percent rule that requires those sentenced for certain crimes to serve 85 percent of their sentence. Oklahoma is going to need an additional 3,000 beds in the next few years, just to hold the increase in inmates that results from the 85 percent rule.