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Fallin signs criminal justice bills

Gov. Mary Fallin signed seven criminal justice reform bills Thursday that will reduce the flow of nonviolent offenders into prison; establish a more efficient and streamlined parole process; and facilitate successful re-entry that reduces recidivism.

"Studies have shown that with our current laws Oklahoma's prison population will grow 25 percent by 2026 and cost the state an additional $1.9 billion," Fallin said. "Criminal justice reform has been an incredibly important issue for our state. We can be smart on crime and tough on violent violent offenders.

"Over a year ago I charged the Oklahoma Justice Reform Task Force with examining our state's justice system to make efficient use of our limited state resources. Task force members developed these recommendations that were the framework for these bills. I appreciate lawmakers for their bipartisan approval of these vital measures.

"Our state prisons are filled to well over capacity so it is crucial that we make some changes to our criminal justice system," Fallin said. "These bills will not jeopardize public safety while addressing Oklahoma's prison population. Too few Oklahomans are getting the treatment they need for substance abuse and mental health issues, and are instead winding up in our criminal justice system. As I said in my State of the State address at the beginning of this legislative session, we need to stop warehousing moms and dads, son and daughters in prison when many just need substance abuse treatment."

"Oklahoma cannot afford the status quo," said Senate Majority Floor Leader Greg Treat. "Our prison population is currently at 113 percent of capacity, and is projected to grow 25 percent by 2026. That is an unacceptable trajectory for our state and its people. These reforms will slow the growth in the prison population long-term. The savings Oklahoma will see from reduced corrections' costs will be substantial, and will allow further investment in areas like education, health care, and mental health services that will further reduce crime and the prison population. The Legislature, criminal justice reform advocates, and law enforcement are in agreement on these reforms after years of work. This is a balanced, smart approach to keep our communities safe, keep more people as productive, taxpaying members of society, and keep more families together."

"It was an honor to be part of the governor's Oklahoma Justice Reform Task Force, and I believe we have taken some incredible steps as a state during the last 18 months," said House Majority Whip Terry O'Donnell. "Nearly all Oklahomans agree that their tax dollars are better spent on core services like education, health care, and roads and bridges than incarcerating too many people for too long. Today marks a new direction for Oklahoma on criminal justice and incarceration. These measures are based upon data-driven, proven solutions that will safely reduce our prison population, save taxpayers millions of dollars each year, and help keep families together."

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