Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Okla - who?

At election time, it's historically been voters who have called for tough-on-crime policy stances from candidates.  Oklahoma's about as tough-on-crime as it gets, but this editorial in The Oklahoman highlights how candidates for governor are urging voters to get smart on crime:

Corrections was among the issues discussed by the gubernatorial candidates Wednesday in Tahlequah. Democrat Drew Edmondson and Republican Mary Fallin each said our next governor will have to look at the issues that contribute to our high incarceration rate, such as mental health and drug abuse. "Every study of our prison system has told us the same thing — 80 to 90 percent of those incarcerated have a drug, alcohol or mental health problem," Edmondson said.
A former prosecutor and now attorney general, Edmondson said repeat offenders "finally run the DA and judge out of patience and end up with a Draconian sentence."
Another Democrat, Lt. Gov. Jari Askins, said Oklahoma has reduced treatment options for inmates who have substance abuse problems, and pointed to Minnesota's use of community-based programs to help curb illegal activity before it results in prison time. Like Fallon, Republican candidate Randy Brogdon, who is staunchly conservative, said more faith-based and community-based programs are needed. "I think we truly need to move from warehousing to reform," he said.
Being tough on crime remains popular. During the 2010 session of the Legislature, lawmakers introduced more than two dozen bills to create new felony crimes and nearly 20 bills that sought to increase the penalties for other crimes. But it's encouraging to see that those who wish to be the next governor are at least indicating they're willing to entertain new ways to deal with this serious and costly problem.
Both Republicans and Democrats calling for reform!  And using Yankee state Minnesota as an example to follow!  Toto, I don’t think we're in Kansas anymore...I mean, not in Oklahoma anymore...are we?

This kind of article should be the norm, not the exception.  One mark of a good leader is telling the public when they’ve gone off the tracks – and in Oklahoma, its overly zealous corrections policies have led to a big, expensive mess for the state.  Should be interesting to see whether the voters get on board, and whether the winning candidate stays on a track for reform.