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Criminal Justice Reform in Oklahoma

Oklahoma has the highest imprisonment rate in the country.

But thousands of incarcerated Oklahomans would not be in prison today if certain legislative reforms, initially passed in 2016, had been law when they were sentenced. Project Commutation is an attempt to safely reduce Oklahoma's prison population by making sure those serving time for felony crimes that have since become misdemeanors get fair treatment under the current law.


Oklahoma locks up far too many, for far too long.

In November 2016, Oklahoma reclassified drug possession and certain theft crimes from felonies to misdemeanors. This change means that these offenses are no longer eligible for a state prison sentence. State legislators then passed a series of reforms in 2018 that include a reduction of the maximum sentence for possession with intent to distribute so that no one can receive a life sentence for a low-level drug crime. These reforms, while important, only apply to people committing new crimes, not people already in prison.

To help correct the excessive and unjust sentences people are still serving for these crimes, Oklahomans for Criminal Justice Reform (OCJR), in partnership with, launched a campaign in May — Project Commutation — to help some of the most-burdened individuals apply for commutation.

Oklahoma Criminal Justice by Date
Oklahoma Criminal Justice by Date
  1. Oklahoma Voters Overwhelmingly Approve State Question 780

    This measure reclassifies drug possession as a misdemeanor crime — one that no longer comes with a prison sentence. 58 percent of Oklahomans vote to reduce penalties and reinvest savings out of prison and into community treatment.

  2. Presents Latest Prison Data, Calls for Reform joins Oklahomans for Criminal Justice reform at the state capitol to call for the passage of reforms based on recommendations of the Oklahoma Justice Reform Task Force. presents recently released data from the Oklahoma Department of Corrections. Among the findings, 77 percent of people admitted to prison in FY 2017 were sentenced for nonviolent crimes.

  3. Oklahoma Legislators Pass Slate of Sentencing, Parole and Reentry Bills

    State legislators pass and Governor Fallin signs seven reform bills based on recommendations of the Oklahoma Justice Reform Task Force. The package of reforms brought sentences for low level drug and property crimes more in line with other states, streamlined the parole process for nonviolent offenses, and expanded opportunities for record expungement. Together, the bills will avert two-thirds of Oklahoma’s projected prison growth.

  4. Joins Oklahomans for Criminal Justice Reform to Support Project Commutation

    In May of 2018, partners with OCJR to launch Project Commutation, a campaign to commute the sentences of 46 women and men serving decades-long sentences for drug possession and low-level drug offenses.

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Your Deep Dive: Criminal Justice Reform in Oklahoma