OK Senate advances criminal justice reforms

Building upon the success of previous legislation, the Oklahoma Senate on Tuesday approved a series of criminal justice reform bills.

“These historic votes will improve public safety in Oklahoma, and save our state $1.9 billion,” Governor Mary Fallin said. “Making smart, data-driven decisions on how to increase safety while decreasing our overcapacity prisons is key to pursuing smaller, more efficient, and more moral government. My thanks to Majority Floor Leader Greg Treat and Senator Wayne Shaw for sponsoring this landmark legislation, and for taking a huge step towards a better criminal justice system and a safer Oklahoma.”

The measures continue an effort by the Oklahoma Senate to examine and modify, as necessary, the state’s criminal justice system to address the state’s prison population and provide treatment for those in the justice system who need mental health or substance abuse services.

The path Oklahoma is on now is unsustainable. We cannot continue to lock up those with mental health or substance abuse problems. We need to provide them the help they need to get back to being productive members of society. These measures continue the successful criminal justice reforms advanced recently by the Oklahoma Senate. I appreciate the work of Senator Greg Treat and Senator Wayne Shaw for taking the lead in helping us address these critical issues,” said Senate President Pro Tem Mike Schulz, R-Altus.

Senator Greg Treat

Majority Floor Leader Greg Treat, who served on a task force created by Gov. Mary Fallin to study criminal justice reform, authored several of the reform measures that passed the Senate.

“These reforms continue our important work to address the state’s prison population in a comprehensive way. These reforms offer a balanced approach to criminal justice. They make sure we keep the public safe, but these reforms also offer men and women with mental health or addiction problems a way to rehabilitate.

“We’re keeping families together and keeping more Oklahomans as productive members of society. Additionally, these reforms in the long-term will reduce the state’s prison population and help the state save millions of dollars that can be redirected to other core areas of government like education, roads and bridges, and health care,” said Treat, R-Oklahoma City.

Sen. Wayne Shaw

“These measures represent the serious commitment of the Oklahoma Senate to criminal justice reform. This legislation is another important step in the process, but our journey is long from being complete. I appreciate my Senate colleagues for their support of these important measures,” Sen. Wayne Shaw said.

Shaw authored two of the bills.

The bills that passed the Senate were:
• Senate Bill 603 (Treat) requires the Department of Corrections to administer a risk and needs assessment for each prisoner. The agency must develop a plan of action based on said assessment.
• SB 604 (Treat) requires the Council on Law Enforcement Education and Training to include personal safety planning necessary at the pretrial stages of a potential criminal case.
• SB 609 (Treat) requires the Office of the Attorney General to adopt standards for certification of victim assistance professionals based on guidelines from the National Advocate Credentialing Program Consortium.
• SB 649 (Treat) exempts elderly citizens from escalating punishment for committing a felony (with certain exceptions).
• SB 689 (Treat) allows a nonviolent offender sentenced to life in prison to have his or her sentence modified after 10 years of imprisonment. The measure allows the courts to waive fees for service.
• SB 793 (Treat) creates the Corrections and Criminal Justice Oversight Task Force to track implementation of criminal justice reform recommendations.
• SB 650 (Shaw) reduces the time by half in which a convicted offender can expunge their records provided no other crime is committed.
• SB 786 (Shaw) reduces charges associated with burglary if no person is present in the home

Other measures dealing with the criminal justice system that passed the Senate were:
• SB 38 (Sen. Roger Thompson, R-Okemah) increases the Forensic Science Improvement Assessment fee from $5 to $10 to support the upkeep of state forensic lab equipment.
• SB 247 (Sen. Kevin Matthews, D-Tulsa, and Thompson) requires the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation to investigate all law-enforcement related shootings in jurisdictions of 150,000 or less, and allows the OSBI to review law-enforcement related shootings in jurisdictions of 150,000 or more.
• SB 303 (Sen. Jason Smalley, R-Stroud) authorizes the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation to submit fingerprints to the FBI Rap Back System.
• SB 377 (Sen. Josh Brecheen, R-Coalgate) provides framework for a nonviolent offender to be sentenced to electronically confined conditions.
• SB 657 (Brecheen) creates the Protection Against Sexual Exploitation by a Mental Health Services Provider Act.