New justice reform bill allows prisoners to reduce their sentences through employment
OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) — A bill that will take effect in November will allow released inmates to earn credits to help reduce their sentences.
Mustang Representative Brian Hill is the author. He joined Gov. Kevin Stitt for a signing ceremony at the Department of Corrections campus on Wednesday.
The purpose of the bill is to reduce the recidivism rate, that is, the rate at which people return to prison for committing a new crime after their release.
“We know that if someone gets a job within the first 21 days of being released, they’re 90% less likely to come back,” Hill said.
By reducing recidivism rates, Hill said those on parole would earn credit for their jobs and good behavior. The credits would be used to reduce their sentences.
Individuals can be paroled during their sentence, which requires approval from the Pardons and Parole Board which considers individuals safe for the public.
“For every 30 days that you do the right thing — you comply with what the state ordered you to do — you get 30 days off the sentence,” said Damion Shade, Oklahoma’s executive director. for criminal justice reform.
Shade said House Bill 4369, which is Hill’s bill, incentivizes low-level offenders, not the most violent. About 3,600 people will benefit immediately when the bill takes effect on November 1.
“It won’t impact people who have committed what we call 85% felonies or most serious offences,” Shade said.
There are ripple effects on the credits, Shade said. When sentences are reduced, the overall cost to the parolee is reduced. Parolees must pay monthly for urinalysis, cognitive behavioral therapy, treatment resources, and transportation to meetings with their supervisor.
Hill added that the reduction in recidivism rates reduces the burden on taxpayers due to the reduction in the number of people incarcerated.
At the signing today was Larry Anderson, a business owner who was previously in jail.
Anderson was incarcerated in 2001 for a drug-related crime.
He said a lot changed for him when he was finally released, and so would many inmates serving longer sentences.
“Guys had been locked up ten, 12, 15 or more years, I can’t even imagine what they’re going to see, from where they were to where it is today,” Anderson said.
Anderson was released in 2005. An employer gave him a job as an adjuster, even with a convicted felon. Rep. Hill has shared his success story with many people as an example of what a stable job and an employer who hires the right people can lead to getting out of jail.
Anderson now owns 777 Roofing and Construction in Mustang. He said prison doesn’t have to be the defining moment in someone’s life, and that a program, like HB4369’s, gives people an opportunity to get back on track.
“I got a full expungement from my criminal record, and these are the things that I think need to happen,” Anderson said.
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