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All articles by Damion Shade

Property crime decreased in Oklahoma as SQ 780 reduced punishments

by | November 14th, 2018 | Posted in Criminal Justice | Comments (5)

Before 2016, stealing a smartphone in Oklahoma could be charged as a felony with the possibility of prison time. The passage of SQ 780 raised the felony theft threshold in Oklahoma from $500 to $1000, meaning a person has to steal something worth more than $1000 to be charged with felony larceny.  

These changes went into effect in July 2017, and the early returns are very encouraging: statewide reports of theft fell in Oklahoma between 2016 and 2017. After SQ 780 reduced minor property crimes to misdemeanors, rates of theft continued to fall. Lower crime numbers, coupled with the sharp decline in felony filings strongly support the idea that smart justice reform can lead to both less crime and less punishment. These positive trends should help to sustain justice reform efforts as Oklahoma works to reduce its world-leading incarceration rate.  

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Making recent justice reforms retroactive is smart policy – and a moral necessity

by | October 10th, 2018 | Posted in Blog, Criminal Justice | Comments (2)

Voters passed State Questions 780 and 781 last year in response to Oklahoma’s incarceration crisis. These measures reclassified simple drug possession and several low-level property crimes as misdemeanors instead of felonies and directed the savings toward treatment and rehabilitation services. The changes have already significantly cut felony filings across the state, though people charged with those crimes under previous law continue to enter prisons at a similar rate.

While these reforms will promote a much more rehabilitation-focused justice system going forward, thousands of Oklahomans are serving felony sentences for crimes that are now prosecuted as misdemeanors. This presents both moral and practical questions: Is it just to imprison those who would not be eligible for prison sentences now?

Oklahoma should make the effects of SQ 780 and other recent justice reforms retroactive; it’s better for Oklahoma families, better for traditionally underserved communities, and it’s better for basic fairness in our overburdened criminal justice system.

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The future of medical marijuana in Oklahoma

by | August 30th, 2018 | Posted in Blog, Criminal Justice | Comments (4)

More than half a million Oklahomans voted in favor of State Question 788 legalizing medical marijuana, making Oklahoma the 30th state in the nation to legalize the drug in some form. SQ 788 directed the Department of Health to issue rules governing the implementation of the law, and after a flurry of controversy and a do-over forced by Attorney General Mike Hunter, Governor Fallin signed new emergency rules on July 31.

The regulation process, however, is still incomplete. While the emergency rules implement the language of SQ 788, there are several areas, including laboratory testing of marijuana products, changes to law enforcement practices, and patient licensing procedures that remain unsettled because SQ 788 did not explicitly authorize the Health Department to create rules. To fill in those gaps, Governor Fallin directed a bipartisan group of legislators known as the Medical Marijuana Working Group to gather information on gaps in the law and form proposals to consider during the 2019 legislative session.

Based on the early comments of the Medical Marijuana Working Group, legislators favor a more “hands-off” approach to medical marijuana rules. The working group is trying to balance the concerns of law enforcement and public health officials with what advocates have called one of the least restrictive and most “patient-centered” medical marijuana ballot measures in the nation, and the next legislature will consider proposals to change and fill in regulations in 2019.

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