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Fallin's Desk Next Stop for Corrections Bill (May 05, 2011)

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) - The state House on Thursday overwhelmingly gave final passage to legislation intended to addresses the financial and social strains caused by the state's high incarceration rates.

Without debate, lawmakers approved the Senate-passed bill 84-7 and sent it to Gov. Mary Fallin to be signed into law.

The measure by House Speaker Kris Steele makes changes to sentencing and parole policies to ease overcrowding in state prisons.

Steele says the bill is a start in tackling the state’s prison problems.

“This is certainly not the end all be all as far as corrections reform in Oklahoma,” Steele said. “But I do believe that it provides a solid foundation for us to continue to work and study and figure out policies we can implement that would allow us to be more efficient with taxpayer dollars, produce better outcomes, and ultimately increase public safety, and I think that we’ve taken a step forward in that regard.”

Among other things, the bill expands offender eligibility for community sentencing programs.

It also limits the governor's role in the parole process for nonviolent offenders and establishes requirements for members of the state Pardon and Parole Board.

Steele says the state cannot afford to continue its current incarceration policies.

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