Oklahoma Group Seeks Prison Sentence Reform With State Question 805

Thursday, December 26th 2019, 7:29 pm

By: News On 6

An Oklahoma group is launching its campaign to reduce prison sentences for non-violent offenders.

Today, Oklahomans for Sentencing Reform launched a 90-day "Yes on 805 Campaign," hoping to get State Question 805 before Oklahoma voters.

The campaign needs 178,000 signatures on the petition to push 805 to a statewide vote. They say they want to fight to keep families together and save Oklahoma money.

"Even though we need to be held accountable for the choices we make, it is not helping our state; it is not helping our family," said Sonya Pyles with the campaign.

Pyles is an advocate for 805 and a recovering addict. Pyles said instead of serving the long sentence she was offered, she entered the Women in Recovery program

She is a graduate and told me it changed her life.

"We need to move forward and be better at saving our state money,” said Pyles. “We need to be better at addressing the underlying issues that lead to addiction and incarceration."

Right now Oklahoma has the second highest incarceration rate in the country and spends half a billion on the prison system.  Advocates for 805 argue non-violent offenders should non get a harsher sentence because of their past convictions.

Tulsa County District Attorney Steve Kunzweiler calls the proposition "troubling" and says "much of the criminal activity in Oklahoma is done by repeat offenders. To say we are going to ignore that past history as we protect the public is foolish."

Kunzweiler admits the state needs a top-to-bottom review of the criminal justice system but said he's concerned supporters of 805 haven't considered all ramifications of their idea.

State Question 805 supporters say this isn't about rewarding bad behavior - but saving families.

"I feel like it is really important for Oklahomans to support this initiative so that we are able to move forward as a state and so that we can keep families together,” said Pyles.

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