Reform bill needs support (Pryor Daily Times)

By the Editorial Board for Stillwater News Press

Oklahomans took a major step forward when they voted to approve state questions 780 and 781 for criminal justice reform. With the knowledge that there are too many Oklahomans in prison, and many were there for drug offenses, we chose to lessen the penalty for some possession charges and use saved money to establish rehabilitation programs.

Those choices are already facing some hurdles but hopefully lawmakers will see the light and side with the people they represent.

We need to recognize that the penal system doesn’t end when the cell door slams shut. For many offenders a major obstacle to returning to society is the crippling debt that comes with going through the penal system. State Rep. Terry O’Donnell (R-Catoosa), has authored House Bill 2289, one of a handful of bills aimed at reducing costs associated with criminal justice.


HB 2289 would do many things. It would allow non-violent offenders sentence modification after 10 years. It would create a payment plans for fines, fees and court costs based on income. It would waive outstanding fines, costs and fees if the offender is admitted and enrolled in one of the state’s higher education, technology center or workforce training program.

Oklahoma Policy Institute, a nonpartisan think tank, has titled our current system The Cost Trap. It’s where people enter the penal system, already broke, and have heaps of fees poured on top of their time through the justice system. Most of it goes uncollected because the defendants are already using public defenders and have been deemed indigent. When people are set free they face staggering debt with few choices for employment, and end right back into the court system in a cycle of poverty and recidivism.

This state cannot afford to run debtors’ prisons. It can’t afford it’s current incarcerations rate as it stands.


House Bill 2289 will be presented this week to the House Appropriations & Budget Subcommittee on Public Safety, of which Rep. Greg Babinec (R-Cushing) is a member. We encourage Babinec to support HB 2289 along with the other members of the committee.

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