OKPolicyCast 40: In prison for what’s now a misdemeanor (with Damion Shade and Colleen McCarty)

The OKPolicyCast is hosted by Gene Perry and produced by Gene Perry and Jessica Vazquez. You can subscribe to our podcast on iTunesGoogle PlayStitcher, 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 policycast@okpolicy.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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Gene Perry worked for OK Policy from 2011 to 2019. He is a native Oklahoman and a citizen of the Cherokee Nation. He graduated from the University of Oklahoma with a B.A. in history and an M.A. in journalism.

5 thoughts on “OKPolicyCast 40: In prison for what’s now a misdemeanor (with Damion Shade and Colleen McCarty)

  1. My husband is in prison for 22 non violent charges of possession and burglary II in which the judge gave each charge 4 years and ran it consecutive on a blind plea. He has now been in 4 years now and he is on the docket for commutation docket for December. He should have been been given drug court. Instead he has a total of 92 years door what are now misdemeanors or max sentence of only a few years

  2. Hopefully, they can begin to release people and give them another chance at life, especially people who have never been in trouble before.

  3. I know how you feel and really we need to look at the counties in which people were sentenced from and talk to them and their families. I bet if it was due in enough we would see the dirty side of it all. Some counties your in a no win situation like my husbands charges they actually should of been dismissed but since everyone was related to each other you were not gonna win. The task force guy was fired after my husband was convicted for stealing drugs out of the confiscation room. Seriously! They are suppose to bring those cases back into court to prove that the task force guys word isn’t worth a damn but they still haven’t done it yet. My husband as well as myself had our lives destroyed by a greedy crooked county and for what? With all the technicalities involved not only should mine and my husbands charges been dismissed but alot of others charges should of been dismissed. I want everyone to be aware of this stuff and know that I for one am not gonna lay down and let this happen anymore. I’m gonna stand up and fight for those that are wrongfully charged

  4. I feel the same way. Kay County is the worst. They are still sending people to prison over a simple possession charge. My friend has been sitting in county since Oct. For App to revoke his 10 yr suspended sentence. On a possession of CDS. His bond was $5,000 when he caught that charge. App to revoke his bond is $25,000. I don’t see how this is legal. He went to compliance in Oct. and they had a warrant for app to revoke. Been in jail ever since. He did not catch any new charges. It says he cheated on random UA’s, Had positive UA’s and missed some UA’s. This is what his App to revoke says. Really $25,000 bond for that?Their first plea offer 5 years in prison. Released on the completion of in house rehab. OMG 5 years for missing random’s. Which is set up for failure.For DA Supervision random’s is from 10am-1pm and 4pm-5pm. For all of kay County. People work in those hours.A person can’t always get there in those hours. And when your color is called you have to go that day or it is considered a positive. My friend works out in filds hailing hey and other stuff. He goes at the crack of dawn. He gets dropped off sometimes by his boss. It not his fault if he can’t get there cause boss didn’t take him in time.I myself went there for random UA at 4:40 pm. And they was already gone. Really we have 4 hours in the day to go take the test. 4-5 is when people get off work. And they leave early! SET UP FOR FAILURE!!

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