Agreement Reached on Oklahoma Criminal Justice Reforms
"We continue to urge that funding be provided for up-front mental health and substance abuse treatment, diversion programs, specialty courts, and other focused interventions that help an offender get their life back on track and avoid further criminal activity," said District 11 District Attorney Kevin Buchanan, president of the Oklahoma District Attorneys Association.
Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin this week announced an agreement with legislative leaders and district attorneys that will allow six criminal justice reform bills to advance in this year's legislative session. "These reforms are targeted at nonviolent offenders, many of whom suffer from addiction and mental health issues," Fallin said. "The agreement reached is a huge first step forward, moving our state much closer to our goal of reducing the incarceration crisis while keeping our communities safe. Though it has been a difficult process of real compromise, I am extremely proud of our legislators, prosecutors, and leaders of our business community, all of whom have taken bold action to reduce incarceration. We need to stop warehousing moms and dads, sons and daughters in prison for long sentences compared to other states."
Agreed changes will be made to all six bills, five of which are in conference committee.
"Today's announcement is huge," Senate Majority Floor Leader Greg Treat said March 5. "You have district attorneys, legislators, the governor's office, and criminal justice reform advocates announcing an agreement to move forward on significant criminal justice reform. These bills, if passed, will keep more Oklahomans as productive, taxpaying citizens and they will slow down the projected growth in corrections' cost, resulting in savings that can be reinvested in education, health care, and mental health programs that will yield further positive results. I appreciate this diverse coalition coming together, working through differences, and furthering the momentum in Oklahoma for these important reforms."
District 11 District Attorney Kevin Buchanan, president of the Oklahoma District Attorneys Association, said, "The DAs are pleased to partner with the governor's office, leaders of the business community and the State Chamber of Oklahoma, the courts, the Department of Corrections, the Pardon and Parole Board, the attorney general's office and others to enact criminal justice reforms that promote treatment and rehabilitation while still ensuring public safety. We continue to urge that funding be provided for up-front mental health and substance abuse treatment, diversion programs, specialty courts, and other focused interventions that help an offender get their life back on track and avoid further criminal activity."
The bills include:
- Senate Bill 649, which would target nonviolent offenses that are driving up incarceration numbers with a new sentence enhancement structure for second and subsequent convictions
- SB 689, which would amend the justice safety valve provision to address long sentences for drug trafficking and provides for numerous improvements to supervision
- Pending legislation that would retool the drug structure, doing away with "draconian" penalties of the war on drugs and basing possession with intent to distribute based on weight