Mandatory supervision not being required despite new law

Provision of House Bill 3052 requires mandatory supervision for felons discharging their sentences

By Barbara Hoberock
Tulsa World, Okla.

OKLAHOMA CITY — A key component of a widely acclaimed public safety and corrections reform measure passed last year appears to have been largely ignored.

A provision of House Bill 3052, known as the Justice Reinvestment Initiative, requires mandatory supervision for felons discharging their sentences. The law went into effect Nov. 1.

Since then, only nine offenders have had the requirement placed on them, when 1,621 should have received mandatory supervision, Laura Pitman, Department of Corrections deputy director, said Monday.

Without the requirement, the Department of Corrections does not have the authority to supervise them upon release, she said.

"It is a problem of communication and education," said Judge William Kellough, presiding judge for the 14th Judicial District, which includes Tulsa and Pawnee counties. "The Legislature passes many laws we are asked to address as judges. If the district attorney and defense counsel do not bring it to our attention in plea bargains or plea negotiations, then we oftentimes don't address it. I personally am making an effort to implement this law and will be focusing a lot more attention on it."

Doug Drummond, first assistant to Tulsa County District Attorney Tim Harris, agreed. In the future, the office will work to implement the statute, he said.

"This is a communication issue," Drummond said. "Everyone in the system bears some responsibility and accountability and that would include us and the judiciary and anyone else."

The Justice Reinvestment Initiative was designed to increase public safety and reduce the inmate population growth rate within the Oklahoma Department of Corrections.

It created a grant program for local law enforcement within the Attorney General's Office. It also created intermediate revocation facilities for those who violate drug court regulations or conditions of probation and parole.

It was a pet project of former Oklahoma House Speaker Kris Steele, R-Shawnee. Gov. Mary Fallin signed the measure into law in May 2012 and praised its passage.

Steele and Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater in March abruptly quit as chairmen of a working group overseeing implementation of the law.

That action came after Fallin's office said it was supporting House Bill 2042 to create a replacement panel appointed by the Legislature and Fallin. The measure failed to get out of the Legislature.

Alex Weintz, a Fallin spokesman, said Fallin pushed for the alternative panel, adding the working group had no legal authority to effect change. The reconstituted panel will be a focus of future legislative sessions, he said.

Fallin's office also withdrew support for a grant from the Department of Justice for training, saying state funds could be used instead.

"I would just reiterate that part of the technical assistance money the governor rejected was intended to train our judges and attorneys and prosecutors and the various entities within the sentencing phase of our criminal justice system," Steele said. "To my knowledge, that has not happened."

Steele said the purpose of the mandatory supervision was to increase public safety.

"Taking advantage of the sentencing guidelines outlined in House Bill 3052 will be more of a focus of our administration in the coming months," Weintz said.

Weintz said there is money in the budget for the training component, adding prosecutors and the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services got funding increases.

Meanwhile, the Oklahoma Department of Corrections got a standstill budget.

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