Governor Mary Fallin today thanked the Oklahoma Senate for its bipartisan and overwhelming approval of four criminal justice bills related to reforms spotlighted in her State of the State address at the start of this year’s legislative session.
“Oklahoma’s drug possession sentences have filled our prisons to over capacity,” said Fallin. “These sentences, while well intentioned, tend to send some nonviolent offenders into prison for years and years, where they live alongside violent offenders whose bad influences can make nonviolent offenders worse.
“Keeping our public safe from dangerous people will always be a priority, however with our state prisons filled to well over capacity, it is vital that we make some changes to our criminal justice system. These measures will address Oklahoma’s prison population, which is among the highest in the nation, without jeopardizing public safety.”
The Senate passed:
- House Bill (HB) 2472 would give prosecutors discretion to file charges for non-85 percent crimes as misdemeanors instead of felonies.
- HB 2479 would reduce the mandatory punishment for subsequent drug offenses.
- HB 2751 would raise the threshold for property crimes to be charged as a felony to $1,000.
- HB 2753 would establish means for broader use of drug courts.
The Senate approval was the last legislative hurdle for the measures. All four now go to the governor.
The bills were proposed by the governor’s Oklahoma Justice Reform Committee.
They won the endorsement of several groups and business leaders, such as the Oklahoma Policy Institute; the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber; the Tulsa Regional Chamber; the Oklahoma District Attorneys Association; Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs (OCPA) President Jonathan Small; OCPA Impact; Clay Bennett; David Rainbolt; and Adam Luck, state director of Right on Crime.