Prison reform has been a hot topic, of late. Championship winning athletes protesting White House visits demand action. Celebrities are championing the rights of model prisoners who remain incarcerated. Even President Trump is weighing in with his long list of potential (and actual) pardons and commutations. With all of that, though, one U.S. state has the highest incarceration rate on the planet.
The state? Oklahoma. The figure is based on the overall prison population juxtaposed against the state’s population. Viewed through this lens, Oklahoma now has the highest incarceration rate in the country, and in the world.
The finding was part of the data compiled by the “Prison Policy Initiative.” Their numbers, which were released on Friday, show that “1,079 out of every 100,000 people in Oklahoma are incarcerated,” NewsOn6 writes. There were 3.931 million in the state in 2017. That shakes out to more than 42,000 inmates in Oklahoma prisons.
“The national average is 698,” the report finds.
“We knew that what we were doing is turning the ship, and we were starting to lower the growth. Now we’re going to have to move from lowering growth to actually lowering the population, and those will be the moves the legislature will be looking at next year,” Rep. John Echols said about the prison population.
Oklahoma, though, is followed closely by other states in the South. Louisiana, Mississippi, Georgia, Alabama, Arkansas, Texas…. It isn’t until the 8th position on the list that there’s a state outside of the South: Arizona.
As this report is rife with statistical analysis, perspective is important. Oklahoma has a relatively low population. The economy of the state is driven by fossil fuels. A century ago, the state was flush with oil money. Now, the state has serious economic issues. As such, their high crime rate is no surprise. With effective law enforcement comes a high prison population.
When compared to other states, like California, Oklahoma’s prison population 42,000 seems manageable. California is housing and caring for more than 230,000.
Clearly, with numbers like these, something has to be done about the issue. Incarceration costs tax payers tremendous amounts of money. What’s the answer? The prison population is high becasue crime rates remain high. Any attempt to lower these numbers will have to focus on both sentencing and the crime rate.