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Blog / Criminal Justice / Oklahoma

Oklahoma’s State Question 805: Reducing Harsh Sentences and Reuniting Families

Oklahomans are incarcerated roughly 70 percent longer for property crimes, and 79 percent longer for drug crimes, compared to the rest of the nation.

Millions of people across the U.S. are acting with renewed urgency to defend Black lives in the wake of the latest killings of Black men and women by police. The movement to defend Black lives demands an end to police violence, but also asks us to rethink fundamentally how we build safe and healthy communities. How can we allocate resources differently? What kinds of services do communities really need to feel safe? And what institutions do we need to re-evaluate to serve us better? The American criminal justice system is an institution that has failed Black people, from their first contact with police, to prosecution, to prison. Dramatically shrinking the size and scope of this system, and safely reducing the number of people who are incarcerated, is critical to ending violence against Black people and Black communities.

In Oklahoma, we’re proud to be a part of the Yes on 805 campaign, which would roll back many of the state’s extreme sentences that keep too many Oklahomans in prison for decades, drive up the state’s prison population, and inflict harm and trauma on families that ripple out through entire communities. Oklahoma has one of the highest rates of incarceration of any state in the country, and the highest incarceration rate for Black people. These high rates are driven by long sentences for low-level crimes: Oklahomans are incarcerated roughly 70 percent longer for property crimes, and 79 percent longer for drug crimes, compared to the rest of the nation.

Yes on 805 reached a major milestone when it handed in more than 260,000 petition signatures from Oklahomans across the state to the Secretary of State’s Office.

The Yes on 805 campaign, launched in November of 2019, is fueled by the tireless efforts of a diverse coalition of actors across the stateincluding faith and business leaders, directly-impacted people, community advocates, and other Oklahomans who are fighting to transform the state’s criminal justice system. Getting State Question 805 on the November 2020 ballot requires approximately 177,000 verified signatures from Oklahoma voters. Just last week, Yes on 805 reached a major milestone when it handed in more than 260,000 petition signatures from Oklahomans across the state to the Secretary of State’s Office.

The message from Oklahomans is clear: voters overwhelmingly support criminal justice reforms that will reduce the number of people in their state’s prisons and jails. Oklahomans understand that we build safe and thriving communities when we invest our resources into programs and policies that keep families safe, healthy and together. We’ve seen that support time and again – particularly at events in Oklahoma City and Tulsa in February, where community members talked about the urgent need to end the state’s extreme sentencing laws and invest in people.

Next up for the Yes on 805 campaign will include the Secretary of State’s certification and counting of the petition signatures that were collected. There’s a long road ahead for the campaign, but we know that Oklahomans – like millions across the country – recognize the pressing need for changes to the systems that are hurting their families, friends, and neighbors, wasting their tax dollars, and making everyone less safe.

We’re encouraged and hopeful that State Question 805 will qualify for the November ballot so voters can do their part to build a freer and safer Oklahoma.

Find out more ways to get involved and stay up to date with the latest on the campaign at YesOn805.org.

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