OK Prison Population Below 25K, First Time in Decade

Oklahoma’s prison population has dipped below 25,000 for the first time in more than a decade, but the system remains overcrowded despite using more than 2,000 temporary beds, the Tulsa World reports. The Oklahoma Department of Corrections population count for Jan. 21 listed 24,992 people. The total peaked at 28,547 in 2015 and last was below 25,000 in 2009. The overall system is at 101 percent capacity. Adam Luck, a member of the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board, credited significant justice reform measures that have created positive change. He said it would benefit the state to engage in a tough discussion about prison population goals.

The state would need to drop about another 1,400 inmates for its prisons to be considered at capacity, which still includes 2,065 temporary beds scattered across the system. Luck said some cells designed to hold one or two people now hold three or four. Common, living and classroom space is cannibalized for bunk beds. There are 606 people sentenced to state prison who remained awaiting transfers in county jails. “We can do as much as we can on the back end in terms of policy reforms and reforms within the Pardon and Parole Board and as much as we can work to apply earned credits,” Luck said. “But if we don’t change what’s happening on the front end, we’ll never catch up. The global incarceration rate is 145 per 100,000 people. The U.S. average is 698 — nearly five times more than the world rate. Oklahoma is 1,079, or 1.5 times the U.S. rate and 7.5 times that of the world.

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