A recent editorial in The Oklahoman pointed out a problem that we in the Oklahoma criminal defense bar have known all too well for years: our state is putting more people away in prisons for longer periods of time, and causing an enormous increase in the state's prison population. The editorial, entitled "Oklahoma Must Eventually Curb Growth in Prison Population," relayed a shocking revelation based on studies conducted by the federal government that, between the years of 1980 and 2013, the prison population in Oklahoma grew by 485%, which is 14 times as fast as the growth of the adult population of Oklahoma during that same time.
Why Are So Many Oklahomans In Prison Compared to Past Decades?
What makes the 485% prison population increase especially disturbing is that the actual crime rates have gone down from 1980 to the present. Which leads to the question of why our prison population is dramatically increasing. The editorial in The Oklahoman points to several key factors for the increase:
- The legislature, in trying to appear "tough," has mandated longer and longer sentences for the same crimes.
- Opportunities for parole for the inmates who deserve it have been severely curtailed.
- The state has been slow to adopt non-prison remedial efforts which have been shown to cut costs and reduce crime in other states, including drug abuse and mental health programs.
A Prison Population Bursting at the Seams
As a result of the enormous numbers of people being sent to our prisons, our state prisons are overcrowded beyond capacity, with bunk beds filling day rooms, gymnasiums, and educational centers, and state spending on prisons has gone through the roof. A few disturbing facts about the Oklahoma prison system as noted by The Oklahoman are that:
- Oklahoma locks up more women, per capita, than any other state in the nation
- We are one of the top five states in the country for locking up prisoners
- Our spending on prisons has risen at a rate five times greater than our spending on education
Experienced Criminal Defense Has Never Been More Critical
These alarming statistics show that Oklahoma prosecutors and judges aren't afraid to do everything they can to put criminal defendants in prison for as long as possible. Which means that, if you are the subject of a criminal investigation or prosecution in Oklahoma, you need to do everything you can to mount your best possible defense to work towards a closed investigation, dismissal, acquittal, or reduced/suspended sentence.
Mounting your best criminal defense starts with working with an experienced, aggressive criminal defense attorney as soon as you suspect that you are the target of a criminal investigation or prosecution. Criminal defense attorney J. Patrick Quillian is a former Oklahoma district attorney who has been vigorously defending the freedom of individuals for years. Contact his office today to schedule a confidential consultation regarding your matter.