Lawmakers Study Prisoner Reintegration to Society
Oklahoma House of Representatives Media Division
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Contact: State Rep. Joe Dorman
Office: (405) 557-7305
Lawmakers Study Prisoner Reintegration to Society
OKLAHOMA CITY (October 22, 2009) – An interim study today focused on successfully reintegrating Oklahoma prisoners into society upon their release from the corrections system, according to state Rep. Joe Dorman .
“I think that creating reintegration programs for offenders better attempts to prevent broken families and helps keeps the parolee from returning to crime and aids anti-drug efforts,” Dorman, D-Rush Springs said. “I hope some potent ideas for improvement will come out of the study.”
Dionne Frankum, executive director for Valliant House, spoke during the study. Valliant House offers substance abuse treatment and prisoner reintegration through the state in McCurtain and Seminole counties. Their primary facilities can treat 40 people inpatient and 100 outpatients. They also run a halfway house that can serve 10 people.
“We’ve been able to find jobs for many of the people who come through our facilities through connections we’ve developed with several communities in Southeast Oklahoma ,” owner Keith Butler said. “Through this interim study, we’re hoping to give lawmakers some ideas on how to develop private-public partnerships that can help with the reintegration process.”
Dorman said he plans to file legislation on this issue in the coming session.
“After considering the information we receive in the study, I believe we can improve the system,” Dorman said. “We need to make sure our programs are efficient, and that programs such as the ones established through our churches have a chance to work with their non-denominational volunteers who give their time and effort to help these individuals turn their lives around.”
Don Duncan, prison chaplain and founder of Destination Character, spoke about the need to change prisoners value systems in order to reintegrate them into society. Records show that incarceration levels rose drastically in the 70s, 80s and up until today after remaining steady for years. He also said it came about as a shift away from America ’s historical Judeo-Christian value system or moral code.
“I just wish that we could get something done to help those who truly want the help,” Duncan said.
Other speakers included Department of Corrections Director Justin Jones, Department of Human Services Director Howard Hendricks, Creek Reintegration Program Manager Tony Fish, Chickasha Nation Reintegration Program Manager David Eagle, DOC Deputy Director of Female Offender Operations Dr. Laura Pittman, DOC Administrator of Probation and Parole Kenny Holloway, the Rev. Stan Bassler, Amy Santee with the George Kaiser Foundation and a representative from the Oklahoma Baptist Homes for Children.
Dorman has filed resolutions in the past to address this subject through a task force, but the legislation has failed to be brought to a vote.
“I have great hope this time that my fellow lawmakers and I will find workable language in this area,” Dorman said. “Many lawmakers are afraid to address the subject of prisoner reintegration for fear it might be portrayed as being ‘soft on crime’ with their voters. That is far from the case in this issue. We are trying to find ways for those who are released to have a greater chance for success and avoid committing a future crime. I would like nothing better than to give greater chances to parolees where they will be a contributing citizen, rather than a repeat offender who drains our state resources by returning to prison.” Dorman said that at some point he would like reintegration programs in Oklahoma to be used extensively, both inside and outside of the Department of Corrections system.
“I would eventually like to see one of our current prisons converted to a reintegration facility where inmates would go for programs to prepare them for life ‘outside the walls’ and reduce our recidivism rate,” Dorman said. “Many inmates have never used the basic life skills most of us take for granted, such as balancing a monthly budget or even doing a load of laundry. We need such programs in place which will help these parolees have a better chance of success once released.”
According to statistics presented at the interim study, well over 90 percent of inmates will be released from prison. Programs are currently in place to assist prisoners, but many feel these programs are not adequate.
“I’ve been approached by countless citizens asking for help for loved ones,” said Dorman. “We have to remember, not all these inmates are hardened criminals and want to make a better life. Wiley Post, one of our state’s greatest citizens, was a convicted felon who turned his life around and made huge contributions to the world. There are others like him out there and we need to find ways to help them while keeping the prisoners with no chance of rehabilitation locked away.”