Renewed focus on the JRI comes after Fallin’s office released in late November more than 8,000 documents and emails related to the Justice Reinvestment Initiative. The JRI also continues to draw attention because Oklahoma’s prisons remain overcrowded, with the population rising to more than 26,700 last week.
Among the key actions revealed in the emails and visitor logs of the governor’s office:
· In January, after failing to get Fallin’s preferred candidate named as head of the JRI oversight board, Rebecca Frazier, then Fallin’s assistant general counsel, emailed Mullins pointing out that if the state rejected a federal grant for the JRI, the coordinator job wouldn’t be funded. Mullins affirmed a “new tack” of rejecting federal funds.
· Fallin’s staff played a key role in crafting and pushing legislation that would have done away with the JRI oversight group co-chaired by Steele and Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater. Steele and Prater resigned from the JRI group in March expressing frustration at Fallin’s office. The legislation ultimately died.
· Facing a deadline for bills getting out of committee, Fallin’s’ Chief of Staff Denise Northrup urgently pressed for a vote on the legislation overhauling the oversight group. The email was sent within a few hours after Mullins met with the president and other representatives of private-prison company Geo Group. Mullins said the reform initiative was not discussed at the meeting.
· Early in the process of carrying out the initiative, Frazier stated in an email that the Department of Corrections planned to transfer prisoners to private prisons owned by Corrections Corporation of America and Geo Group. Justin Jones, former corrections department director, denies ever signing off on such a plan.
Oklahoma Watch is a nonprofit organization that produces in-depth and investigative journalism on important public-policy issues facing the state.