By Jessica Brown
Department of Corrections Communications Director
When do we stop?
Where do we start?
Monsters belong in cages. Those who rip hope, civility, humanity must be stopped. Bad acts must be met with swift punishment.
Today, Oklahoma prisons are overflowing at 113 percent capacity. Numerous prisons would be condemned if a choice existed. Instead, we renovate at a price tag of $116.5 million. And that huge price tag does not fix all the problems.
We are parked at a crossroads in criminal justice. Facts don’t lie, more than 90 percent of those behind bars today will be released. A majority of these people will once again walk our streets, streets our tax dollars built, streets our tax dollars will maintain, streets that will become dead ends for those released from prison with no marketable skill. Those without a foreseeable productive future will return to prison, costing us about $17,680 a year per inmate on average.
Less than half learn a trade behind the wire. Space for education and training has dwindled in the past several decades – about the time Oklahomans mandated felons serve 85 percent of their sentence on violent crimes. That was the year 2000.
Do we build more prisons? Do we end long sentences for non-violent crimes? Do we invest in these broken souls to become more productive citizens?
No doubt, monsters belong in cages.
From where I sit, tough choices must be made now.
Jessica Brown spent 12 years as a broadcast journalist, 15 years as the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation spokesperson, and currently Department of Corrections Director of Communications.