The OKPolicyCast is hosted by Gene Perry and produced by Gene Perry and Jessica Vazquez. You can subscribe to our podcast on iTunes, Google Play, Stitcher, or RSS. The podcast theme music is by Zébre. If you have any questions for the OKPolicyCast, topics you’d like us to cover, or people you want us to interview, you can reach us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In 2016, Oklahomans voted to approve State Question 780, which changed simple drug possession crimes and low-level, non-violent property crimes from felonies to misdemeanors. That law went into effect on July 1, 2017 and is already reshaping Oklahoma’s justice system, with many fewer Oklahomans being charged with a felony and sent to prison for drug possession.
Yet there are still thousands of Oklahomans serving long prison sentences or living with a felony record and all the serious consequences that come with it for a crime that would now be a misdemeanor. This raises a serious moral and practical question: Is it just to keep imprisoning those people when Oklahomans have clearly said that their crime should not lead to prison?
To get at this question and what might be done about it, I spoke with OK Policy’s criminal justice analyst Damion Shade, as well as Colleen McCarty, a law student and intern with Oklahomans for Criminal Justice Reform’s commutation campaign, which is advocating to commute the sentences of some of those Oklahomans most dramatically affected by felony possession charges before SQ 780.
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