A program that began as a way to encourage private/public partnerships to divert women from prison is being expanded to all state agencies. The full Senate voted in favor of Senate Bill 210 this month, aiming to create the Pay for Success Act. The measure is now pending in the House of Representatives.
State Sen. Roger Thompson is the principal author of the measure, which he describes as a way to create new programs to solve wide-ranging challenges in government without risking public dollars.
“This is a way to encourage innovation without risking public dollars. A private sector entity would be able to enter into a contract to provide a program or services with the goal of achieving a certifiable result. That private entity would have to come up with the cost of this program at the front end. They’re only paid for the services outlined in their contract if they succeed,” said Thompson, R-Okemah. “This is literally a pay for success program that we’ve already seen work in corrections. Now we want to expand this to other areas.”
Under S.B. 210, once an agency head determines that a contract will result in a public benefit, an agency may contract a private entity to secure up-front capital from private investors to fund a state service or program. In addition to securing private funding, the pay for success contracts must contain a method to secure a third-party to provide status reports, identify a payment schedule, and identify success metrics for a project.
The proposal has become a vehicle for substantive bipartisan cooperation in recent weeks. Boosting the measure and backing its approval (now as co-sponsors) are key Democrats, including Senate Minority Leader Kay Floyd and Sen. Carri Hicks (both of Oklahoma City), and Sen. Kevin Matthews of Tulsa. As members of the House consider the issue, prospects for approval are high.
Sen. Wayne Shaw, R-Grove, is co-sponsor of the proposal. As it moved through the Senate in February, he said in a press release sent to CapitolBeatOK, The City Sentinel and other news organizations, “The Oklahoma Legislature has done much to address the state’s high incarceration rate and keep more families together. I’m hopeful that pay-for-success programs will continue to offer an innovative way for the state to advance criminal justice reform by allowing state agencies to partner with private programs that will help more Oklahomans overcome addiction issues and get back to being productive, taxpaying members of society.”
“This is an approach that has been successfully utilized to get substance abuse treatment for women who otherwise would have gone to prison, helping us address Oklahoma’s high incarceration rates. It’s worked—lives have been changed because these women had access to programs they would not have otherwise had,” Thompson said this past week.
“I want to see this expanded, not just throughout corrections but in other agencies and services. Again, we only pay for success, and I believe it’s an approach that will bring wide-ranging benefits to our state in a number of areas.”
Another Tulsan, Republican state Sen. Stanislawski was an early co-sponsor for the Thompson/Shaw bill.
Patrick B. McGuigan examined the “pay for success” concept in detail in a 2014 commentary focused on the first state version, crafted by Sen. Kim David, R-Porter.
Her efforts led to creation of what she called a Criminal Justice Pay for Success Revolving Fund. The explicit goal of her efforts that year was “reducing public sector costs.”
Sen. David told The City Sentinel at that time her target (working with the innovative Tulsa program known as Women in Recovery) “women at imminent risk of long-term incarceration.”
When that measure was debated in the Senate five years ago this month, Sen. David (in response to questions from colleagues, pointed out the concept was “already working in the private sector.” She noted that similar programs had succeeded in Texas and other states “to reduce taxpayer costs and improve results in the lives of people who have committed a crime.”
On March 11, the proposal sailed through the upper chamber on a 46-1 vote. It was “enrolled” to the House calendar on March 12, when it had the customary “first reading” for members. The “second reading” took place Tuesday (March 19). The measure is now pending before the House Appropriations and General Government Subcommittee.
In a press release, Senator Thompson invited those interested to contact his office for more information about the Pay for Success legislation. His office number is 405-521-5588 or email him at [email protected].
Note: Editor Pat McGuigan contributed to this report.