Oklahoma Voters Approve Both Criminal Reform Measures
TULSA, Oklahoma - Oklahoma voters say “yes” to criminal reform questions.
State Question 780 reclassifies some crimes, including drug crimes, from felonies to misdemeanors.
Supporters of the measure will reduce the prison population and allow drug addicts to get into rehabilitation programs or the mental help they need.
“Today, Oklahoma’s voters have spoken loud and clear: it’s time to take a smarter approach to public safety and finally reform Oklahoma’s criminal justice system,” said Kris Steele, chair of Oklahomans for Criminal Justice Reform. “Because of the tremendous support we’ve received from Oklahomans everywhere, who fueled this effort, Oklahoma will take a major step toward reducing our prison population and investing in rehabilitation and treatment services to address the root causes of crime and better invest in public safety. This new approach is good for taxpayers, is good for small businesses, is good for public safety, and is good for families. We’re proud that we are able to stand alongside Oklahomans today in taking this important and major step forward.”
Tulsa County District Attorney Steve Kunzweiler, however, said Oklahoma recently passed a law that allows DAs to choose to file a misdemeanor instead of a felony on all crimes, not just drugs, other than 85-percent crimes. He said Oklahoma has more programs and drug courts than ever to help addicts get clean and stay out of prison.
Oklahoma voters also approved State Question 781, which creates a new state fund to pay for rehab programs.
Supporters of 781 say these programs, for low-level offenders, are more effective than incarceration.
Opponents, however, say it will take years before the programs have a meaningful impact on the correctional system’s cost. They also say the revenue stream for the County Community Safety Fund is not guaranteed. The monies are subject to appropriation by the Oklahoma Legislature.
Both 780 and 781 will go into effect July 1, 2017.