Oklahoma has passed Louisiana as the state with the highest incarceration rate in the country, a new study reports.
Oklahoma’s incarceration rate is 1,079 per 100,000 population. Louisiana’s is 1,052 per 100,000, the Prison Policy Initiative study reported in May.
The Associated Press story reported Oklahoma also incarcerates at a higher rate than all countries with a population of at least 500,000.
Nonetheless, Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin has signed legislation designed to reduce the state’s prison population, the AP reports.
“The Department of Corrections is underfunded …but because they don’t have adequate resources, we’re simply warehousing individuals,” said Kris Steele, chairman of Oklahomans for Criminal Justice Reform.
Three-fourths of the total prison population were convicted of nonviolent offenses.
Correspondingly, Oklahoma District Attorneys Council president Kevin Buchanan questioned the report’s methodology.
“Where I disagree is what constitutes a nonviolent offense or what constitutes an offender who is amenable to reform,” he said. “Not everybody wants to reform.”
In 2017, Louisiana reconstituted its criminal justice laws, which resulted in the reversal of its incarceration rate, said Steele. In comparison, Oklahoma is applying legislation that would slow its incarceration rate, not reduce it, critics say.
The president of the Tulsa Regional Chamber, Mike Neal, said it is even more imperative that Oklahoma continue prioritizing and passing justice reform bills to reduce the state’s incarceration rate.
PPI’s “Correctional Control: Incarceration and Supervision by State” is the first report to aggregate data on all types of correctional control nationwide.