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May 19, 2024, 02:50:38 pm
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Author Topic: Okla legislature efforts to roll back criminal justice reform  (Read 4937 times)
T-Town Elder
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Posts: 8123

These Aren't the Droids You're Looking For

« Reply #15 on: March 09, 2024, 11:56:37 am »

Sounds like the for-profit-prison industry is spreading around some love again:

An important provision in the criminal justice reforms approved by state voters in 2016 would be repealed under legislation approved on a party-line vote in the Oklahoma House of Representative on Wednesday.

House Bill 3694, by Rep. John George, R-Choctaw, would lower the threshold for felony larceny from $1,000, set by State Question 780 eight years ago, to the $500 it had been previously.

Ten states now have thresholds of less than $1,000, and reform advocates insist that there is no evidence that those states have less thievery.

George, a former Oklahoma City police officer, said theft “tripled” in Oklahoma after the passage of SQ 780. Retailers, prosecutors and law enforcement officials have made similar claims.

The higher felony threshold was supposed to lower the state’s prison population and divert offenders to treatment while keeping felonies off their records, and in that respect it has been at least somewhat successful.

That did not seem to much impress George.
“I’m not that concerned with the prison population,” George said in response to a question. “We have to lock up the people who need to be locked up.”

Oklahoma prosecutors have argued that taking away the threat of a felony and jail time for nonviolent crimes such as theft, vandalism and drug possession have taken away their leverage.

Reformers disagree.
Referring to theft as “survival economy,” Rep. Mauree Turner, D-Oklahoma City, said, “Making sure we put more people in Oklahoma prisons doesn’t really do anything except make Oklahoma taxpayers pay more for people to live in our prison system. … What it’s going to create is a continuous cyclone of money into our prisons and our jails.”

The cost of incarceration to taxpayers is more than $20,000 per year per inmate, based on various estimates in recent years.

The vote was a blow for reformers who a few years ago seemed to have convinced conservative lawmakers that sending nonviolent offenders to treatment would be cheaper and more effective than prison or life with a felony record.

“It’s necessary for Oklahoma to adopt pragmatic legislation that not only holds violent offenders accountable but also confronts the alarming rise in crime rates,” George said after his bill’s passage. “We have two options: either we can take a lenient approach to crime or adopt smart strategies to combat it.”


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