Slate of Criminal Justice Reform Measures Sent to Governor (Public Radio Tulsa)

By Matt Trotter

Four criminal justice reform bills are Gov. Mary Fallin’s signature away from becoming law.

“It’s common-sense reform that the district attorneys, working with other people in law enforcement, came up with over the summer on the governor’s criminal justice steering committee. They’ve been well vetted,” said Sen. Greg Treat, an author on three of the bills.

The measures give prosecutors more discretion to file misdemeanors rather than felonies, reduce mandatory punishments for subsequent drug offenses, raise the felony threshold for property crimes and expand drug court access.

Treat said lawmakers wanted to strike a balance.

“Try to keep — hold people accountable for the crimes they’ve committed but not make felons out of people for simple possession or small petty crimes, but rather get them the help they need and not send them to prison,” Treat said.

Oklahoma Policy Institute’s Ryan Gentzler said Oklahoma will spend $500 million this year locking people up.

“If we kept that at the community level, if we were getting more money into mental health programs, into education, into substance abuse programs, we could really shift those people away to the alternatives they need to be in,” Gentzler said.

Drug courts, for example, are cheaper than incarceration and provide treatment and incentives to stay out of prison.


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