President Pro Tempore
Sen. Glenn Coffee, R-Oklahoma City
State Capitol Room 422
Oklahoma City, OK 73105
For Immediate Release: March 5, 2009
PRESIDENT PRO TEM, SENATOR SYKES TAKE EXCEPTION TO
PEW CENTER STUDY ON PUBLIC SAFETY, CORRECTIONS
Senators Say Study Doesn’t Reflect Oklahoma’s
Responding to a study reported Wednesday by the
Associated Press, Senate President Pro Tem Glenn
Coffee and Senator Anthony
Sykes said the Pew Center’s Public Safety Performance
Project uses flawed data and is affiliated with an organization
that is proven soft on criminals.
“The lead story in today’s Oklahoman
cites a study that ranks Oklahoma number two in percentage of
population behind bars, with an enormous rate increase over the
past 25 years,” said Coffee. “But there are several
problems with their statistics.”
Coffee says the Pew study was done in conjunction
with the Vera Institute of Justice – a liberal organization
known to endorse leniency toward law-breakers.
“A predecessor of Vera brought us Cal Hobson’s
notorious sentencing grid – ten DUI’s before you go
to jail…release violent offenders – the greatest hits
of the ‘can’t we all just get along’ crowd,”
said Coffee, “and now they presume to tell Oklahoma that
we incarcerate too many of our bad guys.
“Further, the figures they cite cover the
past 25 years. What they don’t acknowledge is the great
progress we’ve made in the past ten years,” he continued.
“What the Pew Center and Vera don’t
want you to know is that since the reforms enacted during the
Keating administration, incarceration rates in Oklahoma have dropped,
while many other states have increased in that same time period,
particularly those that followed Vera’s recommendations.”
Senator Sykes, a former public defender and Chairman
of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Public Safety and
Judiciary, said “I am committed to ensure that the recent
positive indicators within the Department of Corrections continue.
“In the current fiscal year, the inmate population
has actually declined in Oklahoma,” he continued. “Recent
data proves that Oklahoma’s DOC is now among the most efficient
in the nation.”
Coffee noted that while Oklahoma’s incarceration
rate has dropped, violent offenders’ rate has increased,
which has lowered the cost to victims, potential victims, and
society in general.
“James Q. Wilson, one of America’s preeminent
social scientists, was quoted in a recent Washington Post, observing
that the typical criminal commits from 12 to 16 crimes a year
– not counting drug offenses,” Coffee said, “and
Wilson points out that sending a higher fraction of convicts to
prison resulted in lower rates of crime, and a resulting savings
to victims and our society. A high risk of punishment reduces
crime, and deterrence works,” said Coffee.
“In addition, Oklahoma is far below the national
average in average cost per prisoner per day,” Coffee added.
“Oklahoma is being more fiscally responsible than most states
when it comes to corrections, while keeping our citizens safer.
“But talk is cheap,” Coffee said. “Facts
tend to get in the way of a good story, so let me offer a few
facts not mentioned in the Pew report or by those quoted in yesterday’s
• Ranking 7th in the nation, Oklahoma is one
of 12 states since 2000 whose incarceration rate has dropped.
Since 2000, our incarceration rate has declined by nearly 25 inmates
per 100,000 residents. The national average is a growth rate of
28 inmates per 100,000 residents.
• Only 5 states' prison population decreased as a percentage
more than Oklahoma's (1.5%) between 2006 and 2007. And we are
one of only 13 states whose inmate population decreased from 2006
to 2007. (Source Bureau of Justice Statistics, "Prisoners
• Oklahoma ranks 41st in the USA in spending per inmate
per day. Our costs are 33% below the national average per diem
costs for correctional systems.
(Source, MGT Audit)
• In the current fiscal year, the inmate population has
• Last year, the inmate population was projected to increase
by 1238 and grew by only 219.
“Some of this decrease is due to the recommendations
adopted from the MGT Audit requested by the Legislature which
has led to better internal efficiency practices of inmate processing
and management at DOC,” said Coffee. “What the MGT
Audit really highlighted was the fact that inefficient management
at DOC not only led to a bloated Department budget but a bloated
state prison population.”
“Further, the Legislature has invested heavily
in drug courts, which continue to show positive results of diverting
drug offenders from prison,” Coffee added. “The current
allocation to drug courts is $21 million.”
Coffee also noted the increase in appropriations
to the Department of Mental Health and drug courts. Appropriations
in FY'05 totaled $155.4 million. The budget increased by $8 million
in FY'06 and again in FY'07 for drug court expansion. The FY'09
appropriation is $209.5 million.
“The expansion in drug courts is believed
to have led to a reduction in drug offender admissions at DOC
and saved the State prison costs,” said Coffee. Considering
a drug court offender's annual cost averages about $5k a year
vs the $18k a year in a DOC facility, we’re pleased with
the results in terms of public safety and fiscal responsibility.
“Finally, it should be pointed out that a
DOC official bemoaned the small reduction in the Community Sentencing
program’s appropriations last year,” Coffee said.
“This has been a bonus to the citizens, however, as the
DOC is now doing a better job of management internally, which
is leading to a decline in the state incarceration rate.”
Coffee also points out that Oklahoma’s investment
in private prisons is a key component in the lower cost of corrections.
For more information contact:
Sen. Coffee's Office: 405-521-5636
Sen. Sykes' Office: 405-521-5569