As of this week, Oklahoma’s prisons hold 26,110 people, and an additional 32,174 are under the supervision of the Department of Corrections. The number of people imprisoned in Oklahoma has dropped by about 4.0 percent over the last year, while the supervised population has fallen by about 5.3 percent. In order to reach the national average incarceration rate, the state would need to reduce its total incarceration population of 39,000 (including both state prisons and local jails) to about 23,221, a change of about 15,779 people or -40.5 percent.
Though Oklahoma’s incarceration crisis is a constant topic of debate, it is often difficult to find basic information about where it stands: How many people are incarcerated? How does that compare to other places? The Oklahoma DOC Tracker, a tool released today by Open Justice Oklahoma, aims to bridge that gap by providing convenient access to the most current data about our state’s incarceration crisis and allowing comparisons to other states and to benchmarks like the national average.
The Oklahoma DOC Tracker draws on weekly public data releases from the Department of Corrections and reports released by the federal Bureau of Justice Statistics. It attempts to clarify the differences among various incarceration rate figures that are often referenced in debates, which can vary widely based on whether they include people incarcerated in local jails or only state prisons, or whether they are calculated based on the adult population or the total population.
Regardless of the calculation, the Oklahoma DOC Tracker reinforces the fact that our state’s justice system is far out of step with the rest of the nation when it comes to the proportion of our citizens that we put behind bars. Recent reforms to parole and other reforms appear to be making a dent, with the prison population decreasing by more than 1,000 people since Nov. However, if we hope to fall out of the top 5 in incarceration – much less to the national average – we must accelerate our efforts and pursue ambitious reform proposals in the coming years.
We hope that the Oklahoma DOC Tracker provides an easy-to-use way to measure and contextualize our state’s incarceration crisis, and we welcome feedback on improving it. Ryan Gentzler, Director of Open Justice Oklahoma, will give a live demonstration of how to use the tracker next Tuesday, July 9, at 2pm on Open Justice Oklahoma’s Facebook page. Find the event on Facebook here.
Please send any questions, comments, and feature suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org.