In Oklahoma, it is more likely that people will come into contact with law enforcement than treatment. The Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services is grossly underfunded, as is the Department of Corrections. Budget cuts will only exacerbate Oklahoma’s mental health and addiction crises and will increase an already overpopulated criminal justice system.
Today, the Oklahoma Department of Corrections has 26,934 inmates incarcerated, another 1,347 awaiting reception and 34,932 offenders under supervision. Our prisons are at 110% of capacity. We are underfunded, understaffed and overcrowded. This is the result of an ineffective criminal justice system and a legislative failure to formulate and adopt meaningful criminal justice reform. Oklahoma has criminalized mental health and addiction issues that would be better addressed in the community long before people enter the criminal justice system.
Oklahoma incarcerates and supervises thousands of people with mental health and addiction issues. With respect to those in our custody, 58% have a history of or are currently receiving treatment for their mental health needs. The number of inmates with mental health needs has grown by 24% since 2013. The proportion of inmates with addiction issues is no less profound. In FY 2017, our resources only allowed us to treat 28% of those who needed addiction treatment before they released that year. Of those under our supervision, approximately 50% are assessed with mental health and/or addiction treatment needs.
Under the proposed scenario, these individuals will not receive treatment. Speaking on behalf of the Oklahoma District Attorney’s Council, Richard Smothermon, stated the cuts would effectively eliminate drug and mental health courts. He said this would leave the 4,600 participants with no alternative other than prison. If this occurs, it is clear the prison population will grow at an even faster rate than previously predicted.
It was said several times during the press conference that Oklahoma needs statesmen and women. The time to act is now. These issues can be solved with bipartisan action that focuses on funding the core functions of government for the benefit of all Oklahomans.
I fully support Commissioner White’s efforts to serve Oklahoma’s most at-risk and vulnerable citizens. Failing to intervene earlier in the glide path toward incarceration results in the system we have today.
Our system is failing. Oklahoma is failing her citizens. The time to act is now.
Joe M. Allbaugh
Director of Oklahoma Department of Corrections
Matt Elliott, Communications Director