Oklahomans are praising the news of Governor Fallin’s newly impaneled committee on justice reform. The blue-ribbon panel includes the top lawmakers, director of our prisons, and the director of the Department Of Mental Health & Substance Abuse.
While the progress may go slow, it is hopeful that our laws will be reformed in a way that brings relief to suffering individuals as well as out-of-control prison budgets.
If There Is No Victim, There Is No Criminal
Some will only see this as a ‘dangerous’ possibility of decriminalizing some nonviolent and victimless transgression. They will demagogue the issue in order to protect special interests and religious sects. Oklahomans are not “Bad People.” So why are we sending so many to prison? The U.S. leads the world in incarceration.
It is an irrational effort to discredit an issue by subjectively discrediting the personal lives of anyone who holds to the 1935 public policy of the United States. It is only the more contemporary condescension of our nanny state that sees a government role of protecting the citizen from himself.
While there is a legitimate role for government to keep our roads safe and exploiters away from our children, those two directives do not justify the far-reaching inconsistencies in our severe penal code for folks who never violated either of the two directives. And no one can honestly call himself a fiscal conservative when he has bankrupted our state in order to bankroll the highest incarceration rate in the modern world.
No one can call himself “tough on crime” when his policies have become a breeding ground for organized crime by creating the modern day equivalent of the “speak-easy” black market pot dealerships saturating our communities. We’re throwing money at a failed policy like a rabid herd of liberals trying to spend our way to good public schools!
Reset the drug policy and quit spending our children’s wealth on incarcerating folks whose back yard personal hemp plant doesn’t violate anyone.
Prison Is Not A Substitute Hospital
Another reform that will save taxpayers vast expenses is the medical intervention network for serious mental health crises. While the legislature touts the pennies saved by cutting mental health resources (They closed a 2600-bed facility in Vinita, but never replaced the resource as promised.), Jails and courts are now the # 1 medical treatment facilities for folks with nervous breakdowns.
Every major city and county has raised taxes drastically, to manage the new inmates who were booked on disorderly misconduct, but should have been offered a mental hospital, as a preferred alternative. The short-term treatment centers usually stabilize and release a suffering soul within days. A medical leave usually lasts a couple weeks before a person returns to work. But a disturbed person who is jailed, has no medical leave, loses his job (or disability). His kids are probably in DHS custody, and he has a far higher hill to climb in restoring his life. In all likelihood he never will.
I worked as a psychiatric nurse in Tulsa–Shadow Mountain, Laureate, home health, Brookhaven and St. John, often working 2 jobs at a time. I know that they brought the patients from Vinita to Tulsa and dumped them downtown. I have no lost love for Gov. Keating for this and other reasons. These people became homeless, often victims of crimes, stuck in jail, etc. I saw many of them cycle through the places I worked, to get stabilized and turned lose. Some of them cycled through regularly. Many of them would have been better off in group homes where they had a safe place to stay and have their medications monitored. Instead they are wandering the streets or at the Homeless Shelter, Mental Illness deserves parity with any other disease, I could rant and rave about this for hours. Check out NAMI. National Alliance for the Mentally Ill