Last November, Oklahoma voters passed two significant criminal justice reform measures by wide margins. SQ 780 reclassified simple drug possession and low-level property crimes from felonies to misdemeanors, taking away the possibility of prison time for these less serious offenses. SQ 781 directs state officials to calculate the savings from keeping those people out of prison and send it to counties to invest in rehabilitative programs like mental health and substance abuse services. Using any reasonable calculation method, the savings from SQ 780 should be several million dollars in FY 2018, the first year that the questions go into effect. Lawmakers should begin planning how to fit this significant but foreseeable investment into the FY 2019 budget.
SQ 781 directs Oklahoma’s Office of Management and Enterprise Services (OMES) to “use actual data or best available estimates where actual data is not available” to calculate “the savings and averted costs that accrued to the state from the implementation of the Oklahoma Smart Justice Reform Act [SQ 780].” OK Policy’s analysis of Department of Corrections (DOC) data suggests that the savings will be millions of dollars the first year, growing substantially in the years following.
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