Some Oklahomans Fear Crime Will Skyrocket With Passage Of 780, 781

<p>The passage of two state questions is causing concern among Oklahomans.</p>

Wednesday, November 9th 2016, 7:50 pm

By: News On 6


The passage of two state questions is causing concern among Oklahomans.  

State question 780 makes all drug possession and minor property crime arrests misdemeanors.

There are some who fear crime will skyrocket, while others believe it will drop.

Starting next July, anyone arrested for drug possession or stealing less than a $1,000 worth of goods will likely only face a fine. The worst they could get would be a year in a county jail. 

Prosecutors said if they can't hold a felony over someone's head, that person will never have the incentive to get clean or quit."

"It is giving the drug dealing culture exactly what they want," said Tulsa County District Attorney Steve Kunzweiler. 

Kunzweiler said Oklahoma now has the most liberal drug laws in America. He worries what the future holds for chronic, repeat offenders who face no real consequences for their crimes.

"They're going to feel emboldened if all they have to worry about is a misdemeanor crime," Kunzweiler said. 

Others said it's more than just a criminal problem.

"It's a social problem, not a criminal justice program," said Tulsa County Public Defender Rob Nigh. 

Nigh said 40 percent of the people in prison are in for drug possession and petty property crimes. He said they're away from their families, they can't get jobs once released or pay their fines, which can lead to them committing more crimes, creating a vicious cycle.

"The statistics demonstrate kids who have parents incarcerated are 70 percent more likely to also be incarcerated. Keeping families together should be a priority and the passage of these measures will help in that regard," Nigh said. 

He says putting people in prison costs taxpayers too much, where keeping people working and with their families is better for all of us.

780 and 781 take effect next July. Most people think it will take about a year after that to see what effect they'll have on crime, the economy and society.

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