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“You have to spend money to make money” is a more than just a saying; it’s a fact. Elected officials have an obligation to serve the best interests of their constituents, investing in programs and policies that are meant to help citizens become more financially secure. Unemployment, Workers’ Comp and Human Services that focus on educating, re-training, and assisting Oklahomans in becoming fiscally independent are paramount in a strong economy. But Oklahoma’s economy is not one sided. If we want to provide economic and entrepreneurial opportunities for all Oklahomans, we must ensure that women have equal pay for equal work. When the state legislature supports bills that discriminate against gender, ability, race, religion, creed, or sexual orientation, it is detrimental to long and short-term economic growth. Protecting a person’s ability to provide for their family and ensuring their liberty to make their own fiscal decisions ensures a sustainable economic future for all Oklahomans.
Oklahoma is the number two overall incarcerator in the nation and the number one incarcerator of women in the world. The financial bind this has on Oklahoma has made the Department of Corrections dependent on private prisons. This costs, costing taxpayers even more, as the state pays private corporations to house our inmates. In 2015 alone, $92.7 million taxpayer dollars went to privately owned prisons. This level of incarceration and its expenditure in this state is unsustainable and irresponsible. We must invest in programs that will protect the citizens of Oklahoma while being considerate of the long-term repercussions that high incarceration rates create. Treating individuals with reasonable sentencing and increasing opportunities to fulfill one’s sentence in a community service fashion will reduce the state’s financial expenditures and keep families together. We cannot afford to continue down the current path. The criminal sentencing and justice system must evolve and meet the demands of a modern society. Locking up individuals for nonviolent or drug- related crimes destroy families, hurts our economy, and only increases the current mess that our Department of Corrections is facing.