Oklahoma state rep: Being smart on crime is smart on our wallets

By State Rep. Bobby Cleveland

As we enter the second half of this legislative session, there has been plenty of talk about how to fix our state's $878 million budget hole: Raise taxes. End credits. Minimize deductions. Find efficiencies. Evaluate state agency spending. The list goes on and on.

I believe we ought to also look at ways we can reform Oklahoma's prison system.

We have made some strides this session. House Bill 1338 by Rep. Greg Babinec, R-Cushing, eases the medical parole option for inmates who are 50 or older and medically frail. It's a great step in the right direction, but there's still more to do.

I recently met an inmate at John H. Lilley Correctional Center in Boley. This man was incarcerated in 2000, and he's serving a 50-year sentence for a nonviolent crime. He's 69, which means he would be 102 by the time he's released, if he serves his entire sentence behind bars. Furthermore, he's crippled and in a wheelchair. His medical bills cost taxpayers thousands of dollars above and beyond the regular cost of incarceration. And for what?

This inmate was convicted of possessing a firearm after a felony conviction. I'm not advocating we begin allowing felons to carry guns, but do we really need to lock them up for 50 years for doing so?

Read the rest of the op-ed at newsok.com.

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