Posted: May 03, 2019 3:12 PMUpdated: May 03, 2019 3:15 PM

Joint Conference Committees Focus on Justice Reform

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Garrett Giles

Bills revolving around mental health have been lobbied for in Joint Conference Committees at the Oklahoma State Capitol Building. This is part of on-going criminal justice reform in Oklahoma.

District 11 House Representative Derrel Fincher said it comes as no surprise to the Oklahoma Legislature that the State has the largest incarceration rates for men and women.

There is a belief that jail sentences are a deterrent. Representative Fincher said that if you talk to those involved in Criminal Justice, Police Departments and Sheriff's Offices and you will find that a lot of criminal actions are not pre-meditative but rather impulsive.

One of the mistakes that was made in the 1980's that Fincher hopes they eradicate is with illegal drugs. He said that if people were addicted to drugs and they were arrested, they would lock them up and throw away the key.

According to Fincher, it did nothing to help the underlying cause as to why people get addicted to drugs. He said they need to be able to reduce the demand for drugs so they can reduce the amount of people that end up in prison.

That would open the door for the treatment of those impacted by drugs so they can become productive citizens in Oklahoma. Fincher said there are several items in place that could make a difference for criminal justice in the next five years.

One of those items revolves around recognizance releases.

Fincher said they have to balance out those who have just been arrested and have not been adjudicated against keeping them in jail. He said when one is kept in jail (whether it just an overnight stay or for a day), people lose their jobs. That leads to a downward spiral.

There have been several examples of that happening in Washington County, Fincher said. He is hopeful that negotiations will continue in Joint Conference Committees.

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