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Millions of dollars to keep people out of prison, jail is nowhere to be found

KTVZ News Team

By Andy Weber

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    OKLAHOMA CITY (KOCO) — Tens of millions of dollars that were supposed to keep people out of prison or jail in Oklahoma are nowhere to be found.

Back in 2016, a state question, approved by voters, required money that would have been spent on housing inmates with low-level drug offenses to be redirected toward drug rehab and other care.

“There’s been no money, no programs, so our jails have been inundated,” said state Rep. Justin Humphrey.

Humphrey and state Rep. Danny Sterling held interim studies dealing with state questions 780 and 781.

“At this point, we’re trying to figure out why this hasn’t taken place, why this money hasn’t gotten to the county level as it’s supposed to be,” Sterling said.

Question 780 changed the classification of drug offenses, making simple possession a misdemeanor rather than a felony. Question 781 was supposed to use the money saved on jailing and put it toward services that would help people get clean and avoid re-entering jail or prison.

Back then, KOCO 5 reported the money wouldn’t be readily available.

Organizations and counties should have had access by July 2018, but lawmakers said there’s still no money coming in.

“No money, there’s never been any money put in that fund,” Humphrey said.

Both Humphrey and Sterling said they still need to find the best ways to get that money out.

“I think it’s still a work in progress. I don’t think we really understand all the aspects of the money not getting there or maybe the amount of money is the right thing to say, here’s discrepancies on the amount of money that’s available,” Sterling said.

Humphrey said he wants to get this done this session and said he will be ready to file legislation in November.

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