New law could reduce inmates in state prisons

TULSA - On Wednesday, Governor Mary Fallin (R) signed House Bill 2131. It's designed to reduce the state's prison population and help rehabilitate non-violent offenders.

It will go into effect on November 1st of this year.

A major component of the new law is the way it will expand community sentencing and GPS monitoring for non-violent offenders. It means people who may have otherwise gone to prison, could get a chance at rehabilitation instead.

"More than half of our inmates in our system are not there because they are violent or they are evil, they are there because they have a substance abuse issue," said Fallin.

Community sentencing is a tailored sentence to give non-violent offenders the skills they need to get back on their feet, while skipping incarceration.

"Mental health, drug treatment, parenting, education, skill building, life skills, job skills," said Becky Lawmaster, Oklahoma's administrator of community sentencing

GPS monitoring is also reserved for non-violent offenders. The probation and parole office in Tulsa expects to nearly triple the number of inmates using the GPS monitoring system under the new law.

Both programs offer rehabilitation options these offenders may not have gotten had they served jail time.

"By bringing them out and on supervision we can put them in places in the community where they can get treatment," said Richard Parish, the district supervisor for Tulsa Probation and Parole.

According to Department of Corrections officials, it costs about $56 per day to keep someone locked up.

It's estimated to cost $3.50 per day for community sentencing and $4.75 for GPS monitoring.

Overall, the new law is expected to save the state $5 million a year.

According to the Department of Corrections, both programs have a high success rate.

80 percent of GPS monitored and 88 percent of community sentenced inmates do not return to prison within a given period of time.

The new law will also mean the governor will no longer have to sign off on parole for non-violent offenders.

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