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Oklahoma Watch reporter Clifton Adcock talks with KGOU about his investigation into efforts to weaken changes in state policy intended to reduce Oklahoma's high incarceration rates.
Behind-the-scenes moves by Gov. Mary Fallin’s senior staff members helped lead to a severe weakening of a program designed to cut the state’s high incarceration rates and save taxpayers more than $200 million over a decade, according to interviews and records obtained by Oklahoma Watch.
The efforts by the governor’s staff, assisted by legislative leaders, to take control of the Justice Reinvestment Initiative took place during periods when staff members met with representatives of private prison companies, which stood to gain or lose depending on how the initiative was implemented, emails and logs of visitors to Fallin’s offices show.
During that time, private-prison company representatives also made donations to Fallin’s 2014 campaign as well as to legislators, Oklahoma Ethics Commission records indicate.
Federal prosecutors in Tulsa say five to eight cases may be affected by U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder's proposal to change federal sentencing policies.
Earlier this month, Holder told federal prosecutors to stop charging many nonviolent drug defendants with offenses that carry mandatory minimum sentences. Danny Williams Sr., the U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Oklahoma, says a review of pending drug prosecutions showed that up to eight cases could be affected.
The two leaders of a working committee overseeing Oklahoma's plan to lower the state's prison population have resigned, saying they would no longer chair the group and couldn't ask other members to keep serving.
Former House Speaker Kris Steele and Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater resigned Thursday as chairmen of the Justice Reinvestment Initiative group. They cited what they call dishonesty from Gov. Mary Fallin's office and a House vote creating a committee that could replace them.