The Senate has unanimously approved legislation to ensure nonviolent offenders in Oklahoma’s prison system are prepared to live independent, productive lives once released. Sen. Bill Coleman, R-Ponca City, said he authored Senate Bill 1298 to ensure inmates are completing all the necessary education, training and counseling recommended during their incarceration in order to successfully reintegrate into society.
The bill directs the Department of Corrections to create a certificate of rehabilitation that will certify what reentry programs an offender has completed while incarcerated. The measure states that the certificate may include social and behavioral programs, substance abuse counseling, mentoring programs, financial planning, physical and mental health programs, and housing and federal assistance programs in addition to educational and vocational programs.
“For too long our state warehoused nonviolent offenders without providing any services to address their problems, which left them completely unprepared to start a new healthy, independent life when they were released. In recent years, programs have been started to provide education, job training, life skills, counseling, addiction treatment and other services to address the issues that led to incarceration in the first place,” Coleman said. “This certificate will hold DOC staff more accountable to ensure these inmates are getting all the services they need. It will also give these offenders something tangible to work towards and a form of recognition for their dedication and hard work to better themselves.”
The Department will develop eligibility criteria to apply for the certificate and maintain a database that identifies granted certificates and revoked certificates. Violent offenders will not be eligible for the rehabilitation program. Courts receiving an application for the certificate are directed to notify the county’s district attorney that the application has been filed.
The measure now moves to the House for further consideration.
For more information, contact: Sen. Coleman: (405) 521-5581 or Bill.Coleman@oksenate.gov
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