OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) -- Lawmakers are
turning to analysts and statisticians to help decide whether a
truth-in-sentencing bill that would sharply increase corrections
costs and incarcerations would bring a meaningful drop in crime.
Figures presented Wednesday to a truth-in-sentencing task
force show Oklahoma's incarceration rate has more than
quadrupled since 1974, but the state's crime rate has continued
Prison "seems to have a negative impact on an offender's
ability to cease committing crime," said Mike Connelly, an
analyst with the Oklahoma Criminal Justice Resource Center.
And for every offender who is jailed, Connelly said, another
remains on the street to commit more crime.
His conclusions were disputed by Oklahoma County District
Attorney Bob Macy, who said imprisoning offenders who are likely
to commit more crimes is the right thing to do.
"It indicates that we're sending the right people,"
An assistant district attorney in Macy's office, Richard
Wintory, said the issue is not how many offenders are sent to
prison but how long they remain behind bars.
"The key factor here is length of stay. That's what
results in the incapacitation effect," he said.
The Legislature passed a truth-in-sentencing bill last year,
but it has been assailed as soft on crime by prosecutors,
sheriffs and victims' groups who have demanded tougher
legislation that will send more offenders to jail for longer
But lawmakers have expressed doubt whether the state can
afford many of the changes proposed in a House-passed
truth-in-sentencing reform package, House Bill 2927 by House
Speaker Loyd Benson, D-Frederick. The measure is pending in the
Of major concern to task force members is the so-called
incapacitation effect -- the impact that imprisoning an offender
actually has on crime.
"In Oklahoma, is there some reason to believe that if we
put people in jail, that it will have an impact on crime?"
said Bill Chown, a Corrections Department analyst.
"Have we done enough?" said Sen. Cal Hobson,
D-Lexington, co-leader of the task force.
Connelly said statistics indicate offenders sentenced to
prison are more likely to commit another crime when they are
released than offenders who receive other punishment.
Members of the House and Senate reviewed incarceration
statistics a day after the Corrections Department revealed that
the pending truth-in-sentencing proposal will increase
corrections costs by nearly $961 million in the next 10 years.
The measure would also make Oklahoma the nation's top
incarcerator in just three years.
Statistics prepared for the Corrections Department and
outlined for the task force show that while the number of
arrests has changed little since 1980, Oklahoma's prison
incarceration rate has more than doubled.
"The number of arrests per year has remained
constant," Chown said. In 1980, Oklahoma recorded more than
155,000 arrests, he said. Arrests totaled more than 153,000 in
But Oklahoma's prison population jumped from about 4,600 in
1980 to 19,586 in 1996, according to the statistics.
In addition, Oklahoma's crime rate rose from 4,050 per
100,000 residents in 1974 to more than 5,600 per 100,000
residents in 1996.
During the same period, the incarceration rate rose from 121
per 100,000 residents to 591 per 100,000 residents.