OKLAHOMA CITY -- State Rep. Andy Fugate, D-Del City, today released the following statement to remind lawmakers that current DOC savings should be allocated toward mental health and drug rehabilitation programs.
“After decades of ‘tough on crime’ legislation created by the Legislature, four years ago Oklahomans finally said, ‘Enough,’” Fugate said. " In 2016 Oklahomans voted overwhelmingly for the Smart Justice Reform Act, better known as State Question 780. This was the first half of a two-punch combo to take us in a new direction. The other half was State Question 781, which established the Oklahoma Rehabilitative Programs Fund.
“State Question 781 said if the state saved any money from State Question 780, we must spend it on mental health and substance abuse services. Why? Because over half of Oklahomans in prison are not violent offenders. They are there because of addiction and mental health challenges. This money can literally change their lives and the lives of their families.
“To date, the savings from State Question 780 have only been theoretical. Each year the state has produced a savings estimate, with estimates as high as $63.5 million dollars (2018). Sadly, the legislature has ignored the will of the people by failing to appropriate anything to the Oklahoma Rehabilitative Programs Fund. The fund currently sits empty.
“This year is different.
“The savings are no longer theoretical. Like most state agencies, the Oklahoma Department of Corrections (DOC) took a 4% budget cut for Fiscal Year 2021. When building plans to make this cut work, the department realized that the fewer inmates due to SQ780 would allow DOC to close a prison and save the state $24 million. I applaud DOC for their diligence and hard work in developing their budget.
“Now the job is ours in the Legislature. Per SQ781, that $24 million belongs in our communities to support mental health and drug rehabilitation services. It's time to invest those dollars as the people voted.”