WASHINGTON, DC – FWD.us Director of Research and Policy Felicity Rose issued the following statement after the Oklahoma House of Representatives failed to move forward reform to the state’s broken “failure to protect” law. House Bill 2523 sponsored by Representative Tammy West (R-Bethany), did not receive a vote ahead of Thursday’s deadline:
“While we applaud the legislature for advancing many important criminal justice reforms this session, we are disappointed that they failed to consider sentencing reform for Oklahoman caregivers, particularly mothers,” said Felicity Rose, Director of Research and Policy at FWD.us. “These harsh “failure to protect” sentencing practices have greatly contributed to Oklahoma’s first-in-the-nation female incarceration rate.”
Because Oklahoma’s child protection laws do not differentiate between abusive and non-abusive parents, many non-abusive parents, particularly mothers, face longer sentences than those who have perpetrated the abuse. HB 2523 would have reformed Oklahoma’s unfair “failure to protect” law, to ensure non-abusive parents do not receive the same excessive sentences as abusive parents and have the opportunity to come home sooner and care for their children.
Reforms to Oklahoma’s “failure to protect” laws have wide support across the political spectrum. Among Oklahoma voters, 69 percent of people supported reducing the punishment for failing to protect a child, including 66 percent of Republicans. Most states across the country, including Arizona and Mississippi, already differentiate between perpetrating and enabling abuse.
While the Oklahoma House of Representatives refusal to hear HB 2523 is disappointing, it is promising that the state legislature is advancing other meaningful criminal justice reform policies this session, including limiting the state’s powerful “habitual” enhancement statute for people with non-violent crimes (HB 2009 / SB 287) and bringing probation and parole policies closer in line with the best up-to-date research (HB 2273 / HB 2218).
FWD.us will continue to collaborate with partners across the state and the country to address Oklahoma’s harsh and unjust “failure to protect” laws. Without meaningful reform, Oklahoma will remain the nation’s leader in female incarceration.