OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ President Barack Obama's trip last week to a federal prison in El Reno, where he urged steps to curb the explosive growth of federal inmates, resonates soundly in Oklahoma, which consistently locks up more of its population than almost every state in the nation.
Obama wants to scale back harsh mandatory federal sentences for drug crimes and other nonviolent offenses, and his message could equally apply to sentencing guidelines in Oklahoma, where more than half of the inmates in prison have convictions for nonviolent crimes. Fully one-quarter of Oklahoma inmates are imprisoned for drug-related offenses.
With the state's prison population expected to grow by another 1,200 inmates over the next year, bipartisan momentum appears to be building in Oklahoma to resume work on a series of criminal justice initiatives that have stalled in recent years either from a lack of funding or a shortage of political will to implement them.
After meeting with Obama, Governor Mary Fallin reiterated that one of her policy priorities will be supporting programs that divert nonviolent offenders, especially those with substance abuse problems or mental illness, from prison.