405-778-4800
Adam R. Banner ATTORNEY AT LAW
 
 

Sentencing Overkill for Drug Crimes in Oklahoma

26-Jan-2015

It is no secret that Oklahoma has some of the toughest drug laws in the country, and that its incarceration rate is higher than most other states in the nation. Depending on your perspective, you may think a high incarceration rate is an indicator of a "tough on crime" approach that protects the public safety, or you may realize that a high incarceration rate often simply perpetuates a cycle of drug use and violence, rather than rehabilitating low-level offenders.

The Sentencing Project

The Sentencing Project, a research and advocacy group to "reduce the reliance on incarceration," issued a report showing some startling statistics about incarceration in the state. This report looked at incarceration rates, length of sentencing, and racial disparity in sentencing.

In "Oklahoma Sentencing and Punishment: Two Decades of Rising Imprisonment," researchers uncovered the following key facts:

  • Oklahoma's incarceration rate of 66 per 100,000 people is the third highest incarceration rate in the nation. It is nearly 50 percent greater than the national average. Only Louisiana and Mississippi have higher incarceration rates.
  • In the 20 years from 1989 to 2009, the inmate population in Oklahoma more than doubled, up 127 percent from 11,608 to 26,397 in just two decades.
  • Of the inmate population, 50 percent are incarcerated for nonviolent property crimes or drug offenses. In fact, for more than a quarter of the inmates (27 percent) the primary offense that put them behind bars was a drug crime. The national average is only 20 percent, meaning courts sentence drug offenders at a significantly higher rate and for longer terms than the rest of the nation.
  • The cost of incarcerating nonviolent offenders in Oklahoma in 2010 was $218 million.

Drug Crime Punishments Too Harsh?

Between 2007 and 2011, half of those imprisoned for the first time for drug offenses related to crack cocaine were convicted of drug possession only rather than more extreme crimes such as trafficking.. The average sentence for a first offense of crack possession during this time? 3.3 years. However, putting a low-level offender behind bars for years does not typically serve to rehabilitate him or her. Instead, according to the Sentencing Project, long incarceration has the reverse effect:

"However, research finds that lower-risk offenders are more likely to be negatively affected by incarceration. Typically, prisoners sentenced to longer sentences are more likely to become institutionalized, lose pro-social contacts in the community, and become removed from legitimate opportunities, all of which promote recidivism. Among low-risk offenders, those who spent less time in prison were 4% less likely to recidivate than low-risk offenders who served longer sentences. Sentencing practices that allow offenders to maintain their ties to family, employers, and community promote successful reentry into society and strengthen public safety."

A Silver Lining

If there is one silver lining in the overcrowding of the state's prisons, it is that legislators are being forced to look at reforming sentencing practices and mandatory minimums for nonviolent crimes--nonviolent drug crimes in particular. Prison alternatives such as drug court and community sentencing may be effective in easing the overcrowding, reducing the expenditure for incarcerating nonviolent offenders, and reducing the recidivism rate for drug offenses and nonviolent property crimes.

 

Read more about the states drug laws here: https://www.oklahomalegalgroup.com/drug-charges
  



All News

More News

Supreme Court Decision Could Impact the Shape of Oklahoma

09-Dec-2018

In 1901, in advance of Oklahoma statehood, Congress announced that..

Sexual Assault Forensic Evidence Task Force Subcommittee Recommends Standardized Rape Kit

24-Nov-2018

Several years ago, news broke that more than 17,000 rape kits sat ..

State Board of Corrections Approves DOC 2020 Budget Request

05-Nov-2018

The Oklahoma Department of Corrections intends to ask the state le..

Despite Medical Marijuana License, Oklahoma Woman Charged with Drug Possession

22-Oct-2018

An Adair County mother has been charged with illegal possession of..

Putnam City West Teens Accused in Locker Room Assault

07-Oct-2018

Recent cases have revealed that locker room antics once perceived ..

Former State Senator Sentenced to 15 Years for Child Sex Trafficking

22-Sep-2018

A federal judge sentenced former Oklahoma senator Ralph Shortey to..

Oklahoma Cities Adjust Ordinances after Medical Marijuana Legalization

30-Aug-2018

After the passing of State Question 788, the law allowing medical ..

Oklahoma Dept. of Corrections Denies Death Penalty Protocol "Deadline"

13-Aug-2018

Oklahoma, the state that invented lethal injection, continues to b..

Lincoln County Abuse Case Has Some Calling for Home School Reform

28-Jul-2018

The case of a 15-year-old boy rescued from a family farm near Meek..

Oklahoma Health Department Seeks Legal Advice after Amending Medical Marijuana Rules

17-Jul-2018

When Oklahomans passed State Question 788 last month, they left th..

×