House Bill 2131 marks a significant step forward for the state of Oklahoma. State prisons currently operate at around 99% capacity, and 2131 proposes to reduce the rate of nonviolent incarceration. However, as a recent op-ed by House Speaker Kris Steele cautions, “[w]hile reaching this milestone is important, Oklahoma’s incarceration dilemma and all the ancillary problems associated with it cannot be solved overnight. We must do more.”
Speaker Steele wants to make sure that Oklahoma is making sure that it’s corrections department increases public safety in the most efficient way. This approach includes a strong look at better rehabilitation programs and efforts to reduce recidivism, as Right On Crime advocates.
What inspired this legislation? Speaker Steele reminisces about the story of Andrea Baker, a former drug addict. After receiving a lengthy prison sentence, she discovered an alternative supervised-rehabilitation program. Now, Andrea is drug free, and has resumed her duties as a mother to her children. To Speaker Steele, Andrea represents the archetypal nonviolent offender: a person who poses no harm to society and just needs help. Instead of punishing people like Andrea, Steele and the majority of Oklahoma’s legislature believe Oklahoma needs to help them, and in doing so, they may help solve the state’s budget and prison crises.