Paying taxes is one of the inevitable duties of every single citizen, and the residents of Oklahoma are no exception of that. However, when giving the state a huge chunk of their income, people have the right to know where the money that they pay go to, as well as voice their disagreement with the state policies regarding the budget money.
The given issue is raised in Action items for Oklahoma: Criminal justice, the article written by Gene Perry regarding the latest cuts for a number of fields in the Oklahoma budget, which were supposed to help keep the state prisons running and provide the prisoners with food and necessary services.
What especially attracted me in the given article was the moral dilemma that the state authorities had to face when developing the budget policy for 2013 (McGuigan, 2013, May 5). It was clear that the state authorities were unwilling to spend such great amount of money on supporting prisons; instead, many other fields required their attention, like education, medical services and economical issues.
However, leaving the residents of the Oklahoma State Penitentiary on bread and water would mean that the state officials had forsaken the basic principles of democracy and humanism. That being said, it was truly enticing to find out the way in which the problem was going to be tackled.
According to the author of the article, Gene Perry, the Oklahoma state laws are far too stringent, which results in the overpopulation of the Oklahoma prisons and the further budget cuts in a number of fields for the sake of providing the prisoners with life essentials. The density of the population of the Oklahoma prisons has become so thick that a much greater part of the state budget is spent on maintaining prisons in decent state and providing the imprisoned with sufficient amount of food.
As a result, the state is at the crossroads of either choosing the budgeting of prisons and, therefore, leaving such important issues as education, medicine, etc., untouched in 2013, or to put the lives of the prisoners in peril by cutting prison budget and, thus, allowing for the development of other important elements of the state infrastructure.
The given dilemma can be approached from several ways; on the one hand, compared to the people who could have been supported by the state, the criminals in Oklahoma prisons deserve much less attention – after all, they have been convicted for specific crimes and, therefore, owe the society much. Consequently, it can be assumed that prison budgeting is not to be considered the top priority of the state. The Humanist approach, on the other hand, leads to the realization of the fact that the right of every single citizen, even the ones with a criminal record, must be recognized and appreciated (Friedrich, 2009).
Therefore, the prisoners have the right to be held in decent environment and be provided with the life essentials. That being said, the choice is extremely hard to make, as the author explains. The only possible compromise that can be reached in the given case would be to amnesty some of the prisoners, which picks the question of the merits on which the choices for the amnesty are going to be made. As one can see, the dilemma is extremely complicated, and the Oklahoma state does not seem to have a chance to solve it any time soon.
According to the conclusions that Perry makes, the problem has grown big enough to deserve being finally recognized. Moreover, Perry offers a possible solution for the issue concerning the overpopulation of the state prisons and the resulting budget cuts for the issues other than providing the prisoners with the life essentials.
According to Perry, it will be required to reduce the penalties for certain crimes. For instance, since the possession of marijuana has become the most widely committed crime across the state, it will be unreasonable to sentence the people carrying or keeping marijuana imprisoned for a long period, for the state cannot afford the costs for providing so many prisoners with the required food and essentials. However, Perry warns that it will take much time for the given solution to be adopted statewide. As Perry put it,
This year, a bill to reduce penalties for some cases of marijuana possession from ten years to a maximum of five years was approved unanimously by the House Public Safety Committee. It was not allowed a hearing on the House floor (Perry, 2013, 5).
The provided solution seems quite legitimate. Nevertheless, it is clear that its implementation will take years. The reasons for the rejection of the above-mentioned bill may concern a variety of social issues, such as the attitude towards drug addicts and drug peddlers. It is necessary to admit that at present, people are not ready to sacrifice their prejudice for the sake of their well-being. In addition, the provided solution does seem somewhat controversial.
Once drug peddlers are given more room, drug peddling and the problem of drug addiction will become the key state’s concern. Therefore, it seems that at present, a compromise between the needs of the citizens and the prisoners must be made.
Friedrich, D. O. (2009). Trusted criminals: White collar crime in contemporary society (4th ed.). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Cengage Learning.
McGuigan, P. (2013). OK governor vetoes pension reform bill. State Budget Solutions. Web.
Perry, G. (2013). Action items for Oklahoma: Criminal justice. Oklahoma Policy Institute. Web.