Legislators have the opportunity this year to finally turn the tide on Oklahoma’s sky-high incarceration rates. Governor Fallin’s Justice Reform Task Force put forward 27 policy recommendations that would reverse the growth in the state’s prison population. Putting those recommendations into law would allow the state to avoid building three new prisons, saving nearly $2 billion over the next decade.

Where things stand (as of 4/18/2017)

Most of the bills that arose from the work of the Task Force have reached the floor of the opposite chamber, needing only one more vote before heading to the Governor. However, several of the most significant bills have been severely weakened by amendments in the House Judiciary – Criminal Justice and Corrections committee:

  • SB 689: Amendments removed methods for reducing financial burdens on defendants, including income-based payment plans, pilot programs, and education incentives
  • SB 786: Amendment removed tiered sentencing structure for burglary crimes
  • SB 649: Amendment removed provision disallowing nonviolent convictions from being used to lengthen sentences under habitual offender laws
  • SB 650: Amendment requires expungement application to be approved by three separate agencies before submission

Legislators need to hear from you that you support strong efforts to improve public safety by reducing our reliance on incarceration and focusing resources on rehabilitation. These amendments will instead make things worse.

What you can do

Please call House Speaker Charles McCall (charles.mccall@okhouse.gov; (405) 557-7412), as well as your representative (Find your legislator), and urge them to restore the bills to their original form and ensure that Oklahoma takes bold steps on criminal justice reform this year. 

Talking points

Unless reforms are enacted, over the next 10 years, Oklahoma will need to build three new prisons, at a cost of nearly $2 billion dollars, to keep up with prison population growth.

  • Our incarceration rate is already the second highest in the country, and it will grow by 25 percent in the next decade if we fail to act.
  • Incarceration for low-level offenses is expensive and counterproductive, draining critical funding away from other priorities like education and healthcare.

The Justice Reform Task Force proposals have been shown to safely reduce the prison population in other states.

  • The reforms aim to promote rehabilitation and to reduce incarceration safely. States like Texas have effectively lowered their incarceration rates while crime remains low.
  • These reforms will eliminate the need for new prisons and reduce the overall prison population by 3 percent over the next 10 years.

Voters strongly endorsed criminal justice reform last November when they passed SQ 780 and SQ 781.

  • By passing criminal justice reform measures with strong majorities in 2016, Oklahomans showed that they are ready for a new approach.

See our Advocacy Toolkit page for more information and resources.

You can look up your Senator and Representative here, call the House switchboard at 405-521-2711, and call the Senate switchboard at 405-524-0126.