OKLAHOMA CITY – Senator Kenneth Corn said Friday he agrees with Rep. John Trebilcock that violent offenders shouldn’t be released from prison early and said that’s why the Senate’s comprehensive prison funding plan unveiled Thursday doesn’t include any such provisions.
“Our plan ensures that violent offenders will stay in prison where they belong by making sure there will be enough correctional officers on the job to keep them there and to keep Oklahomans safe,” said Corn, chairman of the Appropriations Sub-Committee on Public Safety and Judiciary in the Senate.
The Poteau Democrat said Trebilcock’s suggestion in a Friday morning press release that the Senate plan will put violent offenders back on the street is totally false and an attempt to divert attention away from the real issues at hand – a critical staffing shortage in the Department of Corrections and the unwillingness of House Republicans to do anything about it.
The Senate Democrats’ comprehensive prison funding plan calls for adding 150 correctional officers in each of the next three years to reduce Oklahoma’s inmate to guard ratio, which is the highest in the nation. Additionally, the plan would add 50 probation officers at DOC next year and raise the pay for correctional officers and their supervisors to help reduce department turnover and improve recruiting.
The comprehensive plan also includes a series of systemic changes, none of which would involve the early release of violent offenders, Corn said.
The Senator said the plan will allow judges and prosecutors to have input in the sanctions against parolees who are found to be in technical violation of their parole – individuals who are now automatically sent back to prison on technicalities like not being able to find a job.
Another part of the Senate plan extends the heavily supervised drug treatment program used by the state’s Drug Courts to inmates already in prison.
“Neither of these innovative programs would ever be applied to violent offenders. I firmly believe that those who commit violent offenses should serve their full sentences,” Corn said.
Corn said that last spring, Trebilcock, the chairman of the House Appropriations and Budget Sub-Committee on Public Safety and Judiciary, refused to meet with him to work on the budgets for the state’s public safety agencies. Then, when asked why the sub-committees hadn’t been able to complete those budgets, Trebilcock tried to blame Corn.
“Now he’s trying to mislead the public again. It’s the House Republicans who aren’t willing to come to work and do what’s necessary to ensure the safety of Oklahomans,” Corn said.
The Senator said he is committed to keeping violent offenders behind bars and has a seven-year legislative record of being especially tough on drug manufacturers and traffickers.
Corn said he sincerely hopes that House Republicans plan to do more to protect Oklahoma families from the dangers created by the DOC staffing shortage than issue press releases.
“If they don’t like our plan, then they should propose one of their own. I’m open to considering other ideas. What I’m not willing to consider is sitting by and doing nothing while the safety of our citizens is at stake,” Corn said.