Criminal Justice

| June 21, 2016

Addressing the Root of the Problem

Criminal justice reform is long overdue in Oklahoma. In November, you will see State Questions 780 and 781. It’s unfortunate the state of Oklahoma is currently ranked second highest in overall prison incarceration and first in female incarceration. The high rankings come with a high price to taxpayers. In the last two decades, corrections spending has increased by 172%—from $174 million to nearly $500 million.

SQ 780 amends statutes to reclassify simple drug possession and certain low-level property offenses from a felony to a misdemeanor. This measure will prompt cost savings from corrections spending and reduce the prison population. However, property offenses over $1,000 and the distributing, manufacturing, transporting or trafficking of drugs remain felonies under SQ 780. Possession with intent to distribute will also remain a felony under the measure.

SQ 781 will create the County Community Safety Investment Fund. This measure will take the cost savings created from SQ 780 and return the savings to the counties. The counties will reinvest the savings to treat the root cause of the crime by investing the funds toward drug rehabilitation programs, mental health treatment, job training, and employment programs. SQ 781 only becomes effective if voters approve SQ 780.

The decision is yours in November. If approved, SQ 780 and 781 will bring much-needed reform to our criminal justice system. If our state stands a chance in building stronger communities, we must address the root cause of crime by providing people the tools they need to turn their lives around.

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