TULSA, Okla. (AP) — Oklahoma now has the highest incarceration rate in the U.S., according to a recent study.
The Prison Policy Initiative released its “States of Incarceration: The Global Context 2018” study last month. The nonprofit’s data figures account for state prisons, local jails, federal prisoners and other systems of confinement, the Tulsa World reported .
Oklahoma’s incarceration rate is 1,079 per 100,000 people, unseating Louisiana at No. 1 in the country, according to the report. Louisiana has an incarceration rate of 1,052 per 100,000 people.
The state’s reform efforts are expected to slow the incarceration rate and not reduce it, said Kris Steele, chairman for Oklahomans for Criminal Justice Reform.
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“The Department of Corrections is underfunded … but because they don’t have adequate resources, we’re simply warehousing individuals,” Steele said. “That’s a recipe for disaster.”
Oklahoma District Attorneys Council President Kevin Buchanan questioned the report’s methodology. Steele said about three-quarters of the state’s prison population were committed for nonviolent offenses, but Buchanan cautioned how the phrase is used.
“Where I disagree is what constitutes a nonviolent offense or what constitutes an offender who is amenable to reform,” he said. “Not everybody wants to reform.”
Oklahoma passed criminal justice reform bills during the latest legislative session, said Mike Neal, president of the Tulsa Regional Chamber and member of the Oklahoma Justice Reform Task Force. But the new ranking makes it more imperative the state continues prioritizing justice reform, he said.
Oklahoma also incarcerates people at higher rates than all countries with a population of at least 500,000, according to the study.
The Prison Policy Initiative’s website says it seeks to expose the “broader harms of mass criminalization.”
Information from: Tulsa World, http://www.tulsaworld.com