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Lawmakers Paying Price for Tough-on-crime Laws (Jan 31, 2011)

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Lawmakers who have embraced a tough-on-crime philosophy for years are looking for ways to let inmates out of prison as budget problems multiply.

In Oklahoma, there's a budget deficit estimated at $600 million and prison costs have increased more than 30 percent in the last decade. This week, new Republican Speaker of the House Kris Steele is expected to unveil a package of proposals that would divert thousands of nonviolent lawbreakers from the prison system and ramp up paroles.

It's a big change from last year when Oklahoma lawmakers introduced 26 tough-on-crime bills.

Similar reductions are going on elsewhere. Michigan has shuttered 20 correctional facilities. South Carolina expects to reduce its inmate numbers by 8 percent by putting drug dealers, burglars and hot check writers into community programs.

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