Challenges Legislators to Find Political Will to Fund Important Public Safety Initiative
OKLAHOMA CITY--As prison overcrowding continues to plague the Department of Corrections (DOC), State Senator Richard Lerblance (D-Hartshorne) wants to tackle the issue head on by increasing space at Oklahoma prisons by adding approximately 3,818 beds.
“Government’s greatest moral obligation is to ensure the safety and well-being of its citizens, and that includes making certain we are keeping criminals off the streets,” Lerblance said. “It is simply irresponsible to pass laws that will increase Oklahoma’s prison population and then not fund the bed space to hold these criminals.”
Lerblance said he crafted his legislation to reflect the projected growth in Oklahoma prisons over the next several years, using numbers from the Oklahoma Criminal Justice Resource Center.
“These numbers accurately reflect the anticipated growth in Oklahoma prisons and allow the Oklahoma legislature to act responsibly by funding the needs within the Department of Corrections,” Lerblance said. “Creating a safer Oklahoma starts with a responsible approach to public safety policy and that is exactly what this legislation does.”
Lerblance explained a $309 million 25-year bond issue would be needed to secure the funding for the additional bed space, with the debt being paid by money appropriated to the Department of Corrections by the Oklahoma Legislature.
“There will be some legislators in this building who will say we can’t afford to spend additional money to add space to our prisons,” Lerblance said. “That is simply irresponsible rhetoric at best. It is time for the Legislature to take a responsible stand to make certain our communities are safe and that includes finding the political will to put real dollars behind this public safety initiative.”