The Oklahoma Senate on Tuesday approved a slate of criminal justice reform bills that will slow the state’s skyrocketing incarceration rates while still keeping communities safe.
The measures were sponsored by Majority Floor Leader Greg Treat, R-Oklahoma City, and Sen. Wayne Shaw, R-Grove, the Senate’s two primary advocates for criminal justice reform. The measures are a part of the criminal justice reform bills that, after being sidetracked in 2017, are finally on a clear path to becoming law.
“Oklahoma’s prison population is currently at 113 percent capacity and is projected to grow 25 percent by 2026. That is an unsustainable course. These reforms will slow that growth and even reduce Oklahoma’s overall prison population long-term,” Treat said. “Slowing the growth of the prison population will save the state hundreds of millions of dollars, allowing us to reinvest that money into education, health care, mental health services and other programs that will have a multiplying effect in further lowering incarceration rates.”
“These reforms are about more than saving money or reducing prison populations. This is a balanced approach to keep our communities safe while keeping more families together. We spend too much time and money locking up nonviolent offenders rather than investing in the treatment and rehabilitation. These reforms will keep more families together by ensuring nonviolent offenders get treatment and remain as taxpaying citizens,” Treat said.
The measures include:
SB 650 (expungement bill), Shaw: authorizes offenders of no more than one nonviolent felony to apply for expungement if they have no new convictions or pending charges within the last seven years.
SB 786 (burglary sentences), Shaw: eliminates the mandatory minimum and allows a judge to sentence up to the current maximum sentence of seven years in prison for burglary in the second degree. Creates a new felony offense, burglary in the third degree (defined as breaking into a vehicle), punishable by up to five years in prison.
SB 649 (habitual offender), Treat: reduces enhanced sentences for certain repeat nonviolent felonies.
SB 689 (sentencing reform), Treat: creates risk and needs assessment as a tool for sentencing; requires intervention programming on certain domestic violence convictions; failure of offender to pay fines and costs may not serve as a basis for revocation, other than restitution and willful nonpayment.
SB 793 (commercial drug sentences), Treat: changes the penalties for commercial drug offenses, and distinguishes conduct by possession with intent to distribute, distribution, and manufacturing.
“The costs of warehousing nonviolent offenders and those with substance abuse or mental health issues is enormous for Oklahoma. These bills are designed to avert our prison growth by nearly 70 percent and help us avoid spending millions of dollars to build more prisons. These reforms also will help us ensure nonviolent offenders who need treatment get it and get a second chance,” Shaw said.
The measures now go to the House for final consideration.