Saturday, June 02, 2007

Transformational Justice Act

OK passed a Transformational Justice Act in its last session that has relevance to what we talk about here. Here are the details:

HB2101, by Rep. Lance Cargill, R-Harrah and Sen. Glenn Coffee, R-Oklahoma City, creates a Transformational Justice Act. It creates an 11-member Reentry Policy Council to provide oversight of the reentry policies and programs operated by the Department of Corrections (DOC). It also creates the Transformational Justice Interagency Task Force to establish goals to reduce the rate of recidivism, including coordinating reentry programs, ensuring that those who supervise prisoners are linked to those supervising after release; identifying methods to improve collaboration and coordination of reentry programs and services; seeking partnerships with faith-based and community groups; and encouraging expansion of family-based treatment center. The measure also creates a Reintegration of Inmates Revolving Fund to be used for grants to volunteer organizations, including faith-based groups, that provide health, educational or vocational programs to assist reintegration efforts. It creates a Transformational Justice Revolving Fund within the DOC to be used for bonuses to corrections officials who demonstrate improvement in recidivism rates of inmates that were previously under DOC custody. The measure also directs DOC to develop rules and policies to ensure that recidivism rates are included in the performance reviews, promotions and compensation adjustments of correctional officers. (Amended by House, Amended by Senate)

Of course, implementing the measurement part of this will be next to impossible, for the same reason it’s unfair to fix the failure of a fourth grader on that fourth grade teacher when 3 or 4 others have had that kid, not to mention, you know, the family and community who might have an impact on what a kid learns and does. But the sentiment is both important and telling. It’s important because it tells everyone in state corrections that it’s not just the DOC director who’s interested in getting offenders back into society without lingering inclinations to crime. Policymakers are recognizing that merely warehousing offenders, the popular philosophy of the late 90s-early 00s, doesn’t get the job done when many of these folks come out ready to commit more crimes than they would have had we simply left them alone. It’s telling because it demonstrates at least a rhetorical (and hopefully real) commitment to linking evidence to action, making evidence-based practice more meaningful and, again, with more power behind it. It will be interesting to see where OK goes with this. Being in its direct path, I’ll keep you informed.

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