NewsBriefs BUTTONS

Oklahoma Has Highest Incarceration Rate of All States; District of Columbia's Is More Than Triple Oklahoma's


August 1994

Oklahoma incarcerates more inmates per capita than any other state, said a preliminary federal report released by the Bureau of Justice Statistics in April (Barbara Hoberock and Brian Fird, "Oklahoma No. 1 In Incarcerations," Tulsa World, April 15, 1994, News 1). The report only includes those in prison, work camps, halfway houses, specialized supervision, probation, parole and pre-parolees serving at least a one-year sentence. It does not include those in county jails because they are not considered part of the state prison population. Oklahoma incarcerates 506 people per 100,000, well above the national average of 351. Louisiana is next, with 499 per 100,000. The District of Columbia has by far the highest rate, 1,549 per 100,000, more than three times that of Oklahoma.

Oklahoma has the biggest disparity between crime rate and incarceration rate in the nation. They are 23rd in the nation in general crime and 25th in the nation in violent crime. Department of Corrections officers do not have an explanation for the differences.

"Oklahoma now leads America and of course America leads the free world [in incarceration]," State Senator Cal Hobson (D-Lexington) said. "There is probably no other place in the free world that incarcerates more of its humans than we do." Hobson says the problem in Oklahoma is that many people are improperly incarcerated. He said that better placement of non-violent offenders would help the situation, pointing out that the state presently incarcerates 140 people for writing bad checks.