Oklahoma leads the nation in incarceration. In fact, Oklahoma has a higher incarceration rate than any country in the world with a population greater than 500,000. Locking people up and breaking apart families is not what Oklahoma should be known for, it isn’t what it should lead the nation (and the world) in. I strongly support sweeping criminal justice reform designed to end mass incarceration.
The reforms we need take many forms. We need to start in our schools, identifying troubled youth and intervening with mental health care and social programs designed to divert kids from a path that would lead them to the criminal justice system. We must end cash bail for most crimes and expand legal services for those who cannot afford them. For those that do commit crimes, we need alternative sentencing so that a felony conviction and a prison term are not the default response for relatively minor offenses. Programs like drug courts, veterans’ courts, and mental health courts are a proven way to reduce crime and lower incarceration rates and we should fully fund such programs.