Pottawatomie County District Attorney Richard Smothermon was among the group of legislative leaders and state prosecutors working on a package of bills announced by Gov. Mary Fallin on Monday in an effort to curb Oklahoma's growing prison population.

Pottawatomie County District Attorney Richard Smothermon was among the group of legislative leaders and state prosecutors working on a package of bills announced by Gov. Mary Fallin on Monday in an effort to curb Oklahoma's growing prison population.

Fallin joined district attorneys and lawmakers to announce support of several bills up this session that are intended to change criminal sentencing code. The bills mostly target nonviolent property and drug crimes and would make it easier for inmates to be released on parole.

Simply put, Smothermon said the bills would make the offenders of nonviolent low-level crimes eligible for parole earlier.

The collaboration for the bills was an agreement among many involved, he said, with everyone recognizing the state's incarceration rates, which are at over 110 percent capacity, need to be altered.

Smothermon, chair of the criminal justice committee, said these bills, coupled with the state's passage of SQ 780, which makes some low-level crimes misdemeanors instead of felonies, will have an effect on reducing the prison population.

And while this is a start and the proposed bills should be considered by the legislature anytime, Smothermon said more needs to be done, “and we're not done yet.”

He said the state needs to better fund mental health and substance abuse services, which are both factors to incarceration.

“Historically and to this minute, we failed to do that,” he said, adding other states have such funding in place.

Smothermon said it would take $8 million for the state to adequately fund a drug court program for every county, and that's where it needs to start.

“We have to start pushing the ball up the hill,” he said.

Overall, he hopes members of the legislature can work together for passage of these bills, which would be a start in the right direction.

“We are Oklahomans and our job is to make Oklahoma better and that ought to be at the forefront of every decision,” Smothermon said.

Kris Steele, the chairman of Oklahomans for Criminal Justice Reform, which is behind two ballot measures voters approved easing penalties for certain crimes, said Monday it was too early to endorse the bills Fallin announced.

“We’re glad to hear interest in advancing reform but discouraged no specifics were provided. It’s hard to determine whether this agreement is impactful because no prison bed savings projection has been made and no bill language was actually provided,” he said.

“Until we see specifics, we’ll be encouraging our leaders to keep pushing for the full task force plan that safely prevents prison growth and puts Oklahoma on a more stable path going forward,” Steele added.

Oklahoma has the nation's second highest overall incarceration rate.

Watch for updates.