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Govenor Henry's Smart on Crime Plan

Gov. Henry proposes Smart on Crime plan
January 31, 2007

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(Oklahoma City) Saying Oklahoma needs a smarter, more efficient approach to criminal justice, Gov. Brad Henry today unveiled an initiative designed to preserve prison space for violent criminals while redirecting more low-level, non-violent offenders to alternative sentencing that promotes work, restitution and substance abuse treatment.

“For too many years, the state has spent hundreds of millions of dollars warehousing low level, non-violent offenders and scrambling to find prison space for the truly violent criminals,” said Gov. Henry.

“We have to be tough on crime and lock up dangerous offenders, but we need to be smart on crime too. That means punishing low-level offenders in a more effective way that protects public safety without giving them free room and board in a taxpayer-financed prison cell. It also means requiring them to seek treatment for their addictions and work to pay restitution and the cost of their sentencing.”

As part of his Smart on Crime initiative, Gov. Henry today urged lawmakers and public safety officials to put more emphasis on drug courts, mental health courts, substance abuse treatment and inmate reintegration programs.

The state’s highly successful drug court program encourages prosecutors to pursue alternative sentencing for non-habitual drug offenders rather than prison time. Gov. Henry has dramatically increased the state’s drug court structure in recent years and is urging more counties to participate in the program.

Citing their success, Gov. Henry also wants increased emphasis on mental health courts and juvenile drug courts.

“Drug courts have shown that alternative sentencing can protect the public and result in a more efficient use of taxpayers’ money. It just makes good sense to apply the same model to other categories of low-level offenders, whether they are juveniles or the mentally ill,” he said.

While drug courts, juvenile drug courts and mental health courts address offenders who have not yet been sentenced, the governor said it is also important to focus resources on convicted offenders who will someday be released from prison and resume their lives as taxpaying citizens. Gov. Henry is proposing additional funds for substance abuse treatment programs and reintegration programs designed to prepare inmates for their productive return to society.

“The vast majority of inmates have a substance abuse problem that contributed in some way to their crime. The sad truth is these individuals will commit new crimes after their release if their substance abuse problems have not been addressed, costing taxpayers more and more money,” said the governor.

“If you don’t break the substance abuse cycle, you simply resign yourself to a revolving door corrections system that racks up tens of millions of dollars in new costs each year. If we invest resources in treatment and reintegration, particularly with faith-based programs, we can save taxpayers money in the long run.”

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