Criminal justice reform

The Senate has given bipartisan approval to a slate of criminal justice reforms.  The four measures, which were proposed by Gov. Mary Fallin’s Oklahoma Justice Reform Committee, would still hold criminals accountable, but represent a different approach to dealing with nonviolent offenders that she claims will help reduce chronic prison overcrowding, reduce recidivism, and ultimately help save taxpayer dollars.

Sen. Greg Treat, R-Oklahoma City, Sen. Wayne Shaw, R-Grove, and Rep Pam Peterson, R-Tulsa, are the principal authors of the bills which were approved by the full Senate last week.

“These reforms ensure public safety is still our highest priority.  The Oklahoma District Attorneys Association, along with a host of other organizations, agrees,” Treat said.

Treat’s legislation includes:

  • HB 2472, which gives prosecutors discretion to file charges as a misdemeanor instead of a felony;
  • HB 2479, which reduces the mandatory punishment for subsequent drug offenses; and
  • HB 2751, which raises the threshold for property crimes to be charged as a felony to $1,000.

A fourth measure, HB 2753 by Shaw, enables a broader use of drug courts.

Shaw pointed out the cost for an individual to complete that program is about $5,000 per year, compared to an average of $20,000 a year for a person sent to prison.