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Measure to Ease Prison Population Clears Panel (Mar 30, 2011)

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — More criminals in Oklahoma would be eligible for community sentencing and electronic monitoring under a bill making its way through the Oklahoma Senate.

A Senate subcommittee on Wednesday approved the bill by House Speaker Kris Steele that seeks to slow the explosive growth of Oklahoma's prison population.

The bill also restricts the governor's role in the parole process, a move expected to result in the release of more inmates on parole. Another section of the bill changes the default sentencing on multiple criminal convictions to concurrent, rather than consecutive, sentences, unless specified by the judge.

Lawmakers are facing a $500 million hole in next year's budget and are looking to control spending for the state Department of Corrections that currently takes up about 7 percent of the state budget.

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