Governor Mary Fallin Wednesday commended the Senate Appropriations Committee for its bipartisan support of four bills of reforms she highlighted in her State of the State address at the start of this year’s legislative session.
“Our state prisons are filled to well over capacity so it is crucial that we make some changes to our criminal justice system,” said Fallin. “These measures do not jeopardize public safety while addressing Oklahoma’s prison population, which is among the highest in the nation. I appreciate the support of the Senate Appropriations Committee in approving these vital measures.”
The Senate Appropriations Committee 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 measures, all by Rep. Pam Peterson, now go to the full Senate. Sen. Greg Treat is the Senate sponsor of HB 2472, HB 2479 and HB 2751. Sen. Wayne Shaw is Senate sponsor of HB 2753.
“I am pleased that the Senate Appropriations Committee has approved these smart-on-crime, evidence-based measures that we carefully crafted with input from everyone who touches the criminal justice system,” Rep. Peterson said.
Sen. Treat said, “We’re first in the nation in the incarceration of women and one of the top states for the incarceration of men—but prison is an expensive route for nonviolent offenders, who can easily become hardened criminals after serving time with inmates in prison for violent crime.”
“These reforms offer nonviolent offenders the chance to rehabilitate and return to a productive life in the community while saving millions of dollars that can be used to better educate children and provide mental health care—things that will also help reduce crime. I appreciate Governor Fallin’s leadership in proposing these reforms that have had bipartisan support throughout the process. They’re supported by the District Attorneys Association, the Tulsa and Oklahoma City Chambers of Commerce, and many other organizations representing a wide range of views. They all agree these are smart on crime initiatives that will move our state forward while still keeping the public safe,” Sen. Treat added.
Sen. Wayne Shaw, R-Grove, said, “Drug Courts work. These individuals get the treatment they need to turn their lives around. They get their GED’s, they find work, they become more involved parents, and they have a lower recidivism rate. In addition, there’s a huge cost savings. Drug Court costs about $5,000 per year per person, compared to about $20,000 a year if we send that same individual to prison instead.”
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.
The Oklahoma Justice Reform Committee includes the governor, House speaker, Senate president pro tempore and heads of corrections and mental health departments, with subcommittees made up of prosecutors, judges and law officers.