Path Home Shows 2012 Show Archive February 2012 Show 1208 Crime & Punishment - Reforming OK Prisons

Crime & Punishment - Reforming OK Prisons

We visit with Oklahoma County's District Attorney to see why he wants to work on keeping people out of prison, rather than putting them behind bars.
Crime & Punishment - Reforming OK Prisons

David Prater and Andrew Barth

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Oklahoma State Legislature

Show Dates

Show 1208: Crime & Punishment - Reforming OK Prisons

Air date: February 19, 2012

 

Transcript

ROB MCCLENDON:  WELL OVER THE PAST DECADE OKLAHOMA’S PRISON POPULATION INCREASED BY 15%, WHILE SPENDING ON CORRECTIONS GREW BY OVER 40%.  AND WHILE OUR STATE’S VIOLENT CRIME RATE HAS DIPPED, IT WAS ONLY BY 4%.  SUCH RISING COSTS WITH DIMINISHING RETURNS HAS SOME STATE LEADERS QUESTIONING WHETHER WE CAN AFFORD TO KEEP ON THE PATH WE’VE BEEN ON.  JOINING ME NOW IS OUR ANDY BARTH.

ANDY BARTH:  WELL ROB WHILE OKLAHOMA’S CRIME RATE IS FALLING, PRISON RATES ARE RISING MUCH FASTER.  IT’S A DILEMMA FOR STATE LEADERS THAT IMPACTS BOTH STATE AND LOCAL BUDGETS.  AND HAS SOME RE-IMAGINING HOW WE APPROACH OUR CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM.

[GUN FIGHT]

FROM OUR EARLIEST DAYS OKLAHOMA HAS LONG BEEN A LAW AND ORDER STATE.  IT’S PART OF OUR LORE.  BUT OKLAHOMA COUNTY’S TOP LAW MAN SAYS IT MAY TIME TO TAKE A DIFFERENT APPROACH.

DAVID PRATER:  WE REALLY DO INCARCERATE TOO MANY PEOPLE IN THIS STATE.

ANDY:  DAVID PRATER IS THE DISTRICT ATTORNEY FOR OKLAHOMA COUNTY AND SAYS OKLAHOMA RANKS FIRST IN THE NATION WHEN INCARCERATING WOMEN AND THIRD WHEN INCARCERATING MEN, RANKINGS PRATER IS NOT HAPPY ABOUT.

PRATER:  AT SOME POINT WE’RE GONNA HAVE TO STOP LOOKING AT BUILDING ADDITIONAL PRISON BEDS AND REALLY START LOOKING AT INVESTMENT OF THOSE DOLLARS ON THE FRONT END OF A PERSON’S LIFE.

ANDY:  MONEY ISSUES ASIDE, WHAT ARE SOME DEVELOPMENTAL WAYS WE CAN CHANGE CHILDREN’S LIVES TO MAYBE HELP CURB CRIMINAL ACTIVITY IN THE FUTURE?

DAVID:  A CHILD’S BRAIN DEVELOPS AT SUCH A RAPID RATE FROM BIRTH, WELL ACTUALLY FROM CONCEPTION TO AGE THREE. AND I THINK WHERE WE MISS THE BOAT A LOT OF TIMES, WE START LOOKING AT CHILDREN AFTER THEY ENTER THE EDUCATION SYSTEM.  WE NEED TO BE INVOLVED IN THEIR EARLY ON.  WHAT AFFECTS CHILDREN IS HAVING A GOOD NUCLEAR FAMILY WHERE THEY’RE LOVED, THEY’RE TREATED APPROPRIATELY, FED AND CLOTHED THE WAY THAT THEY SHOULD BE.  I MEAN, THOSE SIMPLE THINGS THAT SOUND SO SIMPLE TO YOU AND ME ARE EXACTLY THE THINGS THAT A HUGE PERCENTAGE OF CHILDREN NEVER KNOW.

[MUSIC]

ANDY:  AND PRATER SAYS TO WORK TO DECREASE PRISON POPULATION ACTUALLY STARTS A GENERATION BEFORE.

DAVID:  YOU CAN DRAW A LINE FROM THE BIRTH OF SOME CHILDREN IF YOU LOOK AT THE DEMOGRAPHIC AND YOU LOOK AT THE ENVIRONMENT THEY’RE BORN INTO, YOU CAN ALMOST DRAW A LINE DIRECTLY FROM THAT CHILD TO PRISON.  AND WE’VE GOT TO FIND A WAY, YOU KNOW, TO BE PROACTIVE AND, AND, AND INTERVENE IN THAT CHILD’S LIFE BEFORE IT BECOMES, YOU KNOW, TOO LATE AND WE GET THEM ON A PATH THAT WE’RE NOT GONNA BE ABLE TO ALTAR AT ALL.  SO, AT SOME POINT WE’VE GOT TO BEGIN TO READJUST MONEY FROM THE BACK-END OF PEOPLE’S LIVES, MEANING INCARCERATING THEM AT OLDER AGES, TO THE FRONT-END OF THEIR LIVES TO WHEN THEY’RE CHILDREN WHERE WE CAN ACTUALLY MAKE A CHANGE IN THEIR LIVES.

ANDY:  A CHANGE THAT WOULD EVENTUALLY REDUCE THE COST OF PRISONS BY PUTTING FEWER OKLAHOMANS INSIDE THIS PRISON GATE.

IT’S AN INVESTMENT THIS TOUGH AS NAILS PROSECUTER SAYS WOULD ALLOW FIRST TIME OFFENDERS TO BE SENTENCED TO REHABILITATION RATHER THAN INCARCERATION; BUT THE QUESTION STILL REMAINS, WILL IT WORK?

PRATER:  THESE ARE NOT GONNA BE QUICK ANSWERS, YOU KNOW; WE’RE NOT GONNA KNOW WHAT THE AFFECT OF ANY GIVEN REFORM IS GONNA BE UNTIL A NUMBER OF YEARS DOWN THE LINE.  BUT WHAT WE DO KNOW WORKS, BASED ON OUR EXPERIENCE WITH THERAPEUTIC COURTS, IS THAT THOSE PEOPLE THAT WOULD OTHERWISE GO INTO THE PRISON SYSTEMS FOR DRUG OR ALCOHOL DRIVEN CRIMES, IF WE SEND THEM INTO AN INTENSIVE PROGRAM, A THERAPEUTIC TYPE PROGRAM, THAT THOSE DO WORK.  AND WHAT WE’VE LEARNED IS THAT, YOU KNOW, WHERE IT COSTS TO INCARCERATE A PERSON IN THIS STATE RIGHT NOW, ANYWHERE BETWEEN 18,000 AND 23,000 DOLLARS, OUR THERAPEUTIC COURT PROGRAMS LIKE DUI COURT AND OUR DRUG COURT PROGRAMS ARE, THEY COST ABOUT 5,000 DOLLARS A YEAR.  SO YOU HAVE THAT COMPARISON IN COST, THAT SAVINGS IN COST; BUT NOT JUST THAT, A PERSON WHO SUCCESSFULLY COMPLETES A DRUG COURT PROGRAM IN OKLAHOMA COUNTY IS ABOUT FIVE TIMES LESS LIKELY TO RE-OFFEND THAN A PERSON THAT WAS INCARCERATED FOR THE, FOR THE SAME OFFENSE AND IS JUST RELEASED BACK INTO SOCIETY WITH MINIMAL COUNSELING AND MINIMAL TREATMENT.

ANDY:  TALK TO ME A LITTLE BIT ABOUT THE THERAPEUTIC COURT PROGRAMS AND HOW THEY WORK AND WHAT ALL THEY OFFER.

PRATER:  THE WAY THE LEGISLATOR, LEGISLATURE SET UP THE DRUG COURT PROGRAM IN OKLAHOMA WAS THEY WANTED IT TO BE A PRISON DIVERSION; FOR PEOPLE WHO HAVE BEEN INVOLVED IN DRUG OR ALCOHOL DRIVEN CRIMES.  THOSE ARE SERIOUS OFFENSES, BUT WE DO KNOW THAT AS THE LEGISLATURE SET IT UP THEY SAID WE WANT PEOPLE WHO WOULD NORMALLY GO INTO PRISON FOR THESE CRIMES TO GO INTO THESE THERAPEUTIC COURTS AND RECEIVE VERY INTENSIVE TREATMENT AND VERY STRICT SUPERVISION FOR A PERIOD TIME, NORMALLY ABOUT THREE YEARS.  HOPEFULLY WE WILL SEE THAT WHEN THAT PERSON COMPLETES THAT PROGRAM AFTER THE THREE YEARS THAT THEY HAVE BEEN ABLE TO AVOID USING DRUGS OR ALCOHOL, AND AGAIN, SET THEIR LIFE ON A DIFFERENT PATH HOPEFULLY.

ANDY:  A PATH LEADING TO FREEDOM OF ADDICTION, RATHER THAN BARS AND RAZORWIRE.

ROB:  WELL ANDY I FIND IT INTERESTING THAT A MAN THAT HAS SPENT HIS ENTIRE CAREER PUTTING PEOPLE BEHIND BARS IS NOW WORKING SO HARD TO KEEP PEOPLE OUT OF PRISON.

ANDY:  WELL ROB, FIRST AND FOREMOST MR PRATER WILL TELL YOU THAT THEY ARE FOCUSING ON NON-VIOLENT OFFENDERS FOR THESE REHABILITATION AND PREVENTION PROGRAMS, BECAUSE HE HAS SEEN FIRST-HAND THE CYCLICAL NATURE OF CRIME AND PUNISHMENT THAT SPANS THROUGHOUT GENERATIONS.

ROB:  ALRIGHT, THANK YOU ANDY, INTERESTING REPORT.  NOW, WHEN WE RETURN I SIT DOWN WITH OKLAHOMA’S SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE TO TALK ABOUT WORK UNDERWAY TO RE INVENT OKLAHOMA’S CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM..HE HAS SEEN FIRST HAND THE CYCLICAL NATURE OF CRIME AND PUNISHMENT THAT OFTEN STRETCHES THROUGHOUT GENRATIONSG SO HARD ________