Oklahoma Prisons Essay

1686 words - 7 pages

Oklahoma prison population has grown 79% under Governor Keating's administration due to the repeal of the Cap Law and the suspension of the Truth in the Sentencing Bill. Oklahoma prisoner statistics are astonishing when broken down into violent and non-violent, female and male, and percentages of minorities compared to education and mental health care. Economics would be effective if used for rehabilitation facilities or drug courts rather than private prisons for non-violent offenders.

        Cries of injustice and inhumanity echo through Oklahoma, which now ranks first in the nation in women in prison, third in men. New Bureau of Justice Statistics state that 622 of every 100,00 Oklahomans are in prison, including 19,555 men and 2,233 women. The $339 million dollars Correction budget is ripping a gaping hole in funding for education, mental health and family programs (Observer 18).

        Prisons are the number one growth industry in Oklahoma-5, 100 employees, 52,000 offenders counting those on parole and those on probation, seventeen major institution and twenty-nine smaller facilities (7). The prison population has grown under Republican Governor Frank Keating, who has adopted a no early release and a virtual no-parole policy. The Correction budget was $197 million dollars a year when he took office. He has doubled it (Greiner 5). Oklahoma is spending $14,600 dollars per year per inmate, that is more than three times the amount spent on a child's education to go to public schools (Observer 18). The percentages of the state budget going to public education have decreased every year under his administration.

        The state's reckless correction policy is sending a larger number of poor Oklahomans to prison, especially minorities. Although all minorities constitute only 20.9% of Oklahoma population, Blacks constitute 40% of the prisons population, Native Americans 6.7% and Hispanics 4.6%. Blacks are only 11.1% of the states population (Bittner 10).

        Despite what incarceration rates indicate, Oklahoma doesn't have America's worst political leadership. Nobody weeps when career criminals, violent criminals and sexual offenders are hauled off to prison, even for life. When the truth is known, only 24% of Oklahoma's inmates are there for violent crimes-sex offenses (5%), murder (2%), robbery (4%), assault (6), and other violent offenses (7%). Of the 7,260 sentenced to prison last year, average age was thirty-one and 81% were sentenced fro non-violent offenses- DUI'S 9%, fraud 8%, larceny 12%, burglary 11.9% and whopping 33% for drug offenses (Observer 18).

        Most offenders showing up in court are represented by an over-worked , under paid public defender system. The Oklahoma trail bench is too often littered with ex-prosecutors and ex-cops who pack the prisons. The state system is 30% overboard-legal capacity-3, 974 prisons over the 95% level of the Emergency Overcrowding Act (Hoberock 1). Guards...

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