OKLAHOMA CITY – State Rep. Cory Williams today applauded a Republican colleague for pushing a package of criminal justice reform measures through the Oklahoma House of Representatives.
Williams, D-Stillwater, praised Rep. Pam Peterson, R-Tulsa, for her work on four bills that were proposed by the Oklahoma Justice Reform Committee.
“These bills were developed with input from a bipartisan coalition,” said Williams, a Stillwater attorney. “These are issues I have been pressing for years, and I am glad to finally see them come to fruition –”
The criminal justice reform measures that cleared the House Monday included:
House Bill 2472, which would give prosecutors discretion to file a charge as a misdemeanor rather than a felony if the offense is not listed as a crime requiring the offender to serve at least 85% of the sentence. HB 2472 passed the House in a 63-27 vote. Williams; Rep. Ben Loring, D-Miami, a former prosecutor; and four of the five other attorneys in the House Democratic Caucus, along with Rep. Johnny Tadlock, D-Idabel, a former county sheriff, endorsed the proposal.
House Bill 2479 would reduce the mandatory punishment for simple possession of most drugs, from a prison term of 2-10 years to a sentence of no more than 5 years. Voting “aye” on that measure were Williams, Loring, Tadlock, and Democrat attorneys Emily Virgin of Norman, David Perryman of Chickasha, Ben Sherrer of Chouteau, Richard Morrissette of Oklahoma City, and House Democratic Leader Scott Inman of Del City.
House Bill 2751 would increase the felony threshold for property crimes: from $500 to $1,000. It would apply to crimes such as embezzlement, issuing a bogus check, obtaining property by trick or deception, or receiving money, goods or services with a forged credit card. Williams and five of the six other House Democrat attorneys and Representative Tadlock supported that measure.
House Bill 2753 establishes means for broader use of drug courts. Williams and five of the six other House Democrat attorneys, plus the former sheriff, supported the bill.
“These bills demonstrate that we can be smart on crime without being excessively tough on crime,” Williams said, noting that state prisons are packed at 123% of capacity and the Legislature is coping with a $1.3 billion shortfall in the state budget. “This is a good first step,” he said, “but additional reforms are still needed, especially an emphasis on mental health and substance abuse treatment”
The Justice Reform Committee is comprised of the governor, the Speaker of the House, the Senate President Pro Tempore, and the directors of the Corrections and Mental Health departments, with subcommittees composed of prosecutors, judges and law officers.