MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

Opinion

February 5, 2013

Find money for prisons, alternatives

— Oklahoma legislators should find the money the state prison system says it needs to operate efficiently.

The head of the Department of Corrections said last week that the overcrowded system needs $6.3 million before the next fiscal year.

If the DOC does not receive the funding, Director Justin Jones says the system may start refusing to accept prisoners from county jails.

That’s unacceptable.

The DOC is at 99 percent capacity.

An additional 1,700 inmates are in county jails awaiting transfer. Too many of those convicts  awaiting transfer are violent criminals.

Those prisoners need to be sent to the DOC, which is better equipped to keep the public safe from these convicts than local jails.

After legislators find the money to keep us safe, they should spend some immediate effort on finding ways to keep the system from being overcrowded.

We have said that Oklahoma houses too many non-violent convicts who might have a better chance at redemption through rehabilitation, not incarceration.

Too many convicts are in prison for possession of drugs — users, not traffickers.

The state should look for alternative sentencing for those first-offenders who have a chance at rehab.

That would be a start to creating a few vacancies in our prison system for violent and repeat offenders.

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