For Immediate Release: 10/9/2018
Jennie Scott for HD41
In a recent study by the Prison Policy Initiative, Oklahoma was found to be the number one incarcerator not only in the United States of America, but in the world. Yes, the world. The average for the US was 698 prisoners out of every 100,000 citizens. The country that came in at number two was El Salvador with 614 prisoners out of every 100,000 citizens. Oklahoma’s rate? 1,079 prisoners out of every 100,000 citizens. That is roughly 43,000 prisoners in Oklahoma- almost 2% of our entire population (sources: US Census, Prison Policy Initiative State Incarceration Index 2018)! We spend an average of $19,000 a year per prisoner. That’s $817 MILLION per year! No wonder we have a budget crisis!
Now, I know I threw a lot of numbers at you at the start, but hear me out about my solution. First, we must get rid of private prisons. Private prisons profit when lives fall apart. Making money off of the misery of others is morally wrong. Furthermore, these private companies are being paid by the state using taxpayer money. They then use part of the profits to lobby for harsher sentencing, which in turn lines their businesses’ pockets. We must discontinue the funneling of our money into this morally bankrupt system and pursue fiscally responsible solutions.
Most importantly, though, we need to intervene earlier and seek programs that keep people out of prison. It seems we witness tragedy after tragedy and frequently say we need stronger mental health programs. I want to make this happen. If we really want a safer state, we must invest in mental health services in the schools and in the community at large. We need stronger and trusted commitments from our elected leadership in making mental health and addiction services available (and most importantly, affordable) to those who want it.