FWD.us Statement on Passage of Oklahoma Justice Reform Bills

WASHINGTON, DC – FWD.us Senior Director of Criminal Justice Reform Zoë Towns issued the following statement today upon the passage of key justice reform bills in Oklahoma:

“We applaud Oklahoma Senate President Mike Schulz (R), House Speaker Charles McCall (R), Representative Terry O’Donnell (R), Senator Greg Treat (R), Senator Wayne Shaw (R), Representative Chris Kannady (R), and Representative Ben Loring (D) for their leadership in passing a package of criminal justice reforms that will slow Oklahoma’s skyrocketing prison growth and ensure more effective use of state resources.

“These reforms, based on recommendations from the Oklahoma Justice Reform Task Force, will reduce the state’s projected prison population by 4,851 over the next 10 years. This is a critical step forward for Oklahoma that will help keep more of Oklahoma’s families together and build safer communities.

“The bills passed today are:

  • SB 649 removes certain property offenses from the habitual offender enhancement so that people charged with those crimes will no longer be subject to mandatory minimum or life sentences. It also makes it so that prior convictions for possession of a controlled substance can no longer be used to enhance new sentences.
  • SB 689 caps the length of incarceration for technical violations of probation at six months and makes it so people can no longer be incarcerated for failure to pay fines and fees. It also allows people serving life without parole sentences for nonviolent crimes to petition for sentence modification.
  • SB 786 carves out breaking into a vehicle from burglary of a home or business and provides a lesser sentence for the less serious conduct.
  • SB 793 reduces the penalties for commercial drug offenses. For example, people convicted of low-level sale or possession with intent to distribute for the first time will now be subject to a 0-7 year sentence instead of 2-life.
  • SB 650 expands opportunities for those convicted of nonviolent offenses by bringing record expungement requirements more in line with those of other states.
  • HB 2286 streamlines the parole process for people convicted of nonviolent offenses who comply with their case plans while in prison and makes them eligible for parole at 25% instead of 33%. This administrative parole process will be available to people currently in prison who are parole eligible.
  • HB 2281 creates a tiered penalty structure for felony property offenses by value, establishing more severe penalties for higher-value property offenses and brings down the maximum sentence for first time, low-level theft offenses to three years.

“By passing the Justice Reform Task Force bills, Oklahoma has shown a commitment to a smarter, fairer, and more fiscally responsible justice system.

“However, even with the passage of these reforms, Oklahoma is still poised to overtake Louisiana as the state with the highest incarceration rate in the nation. We strongly urge Governor Fallin to sign these bills into law as a critical first step, and implore Oklahoma lawmakers to continue pushing for additional reforms.”

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