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Oklahoma law enforcement community voice concerns about criminal justice state questions

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OKLAHOMA CITY -- Law enforcement officials are urging the public to vote no to state questions reforming the criminal justice system, while supporters believe it's something our state needs.

State Question 780 would change certain non-violent drug and theft related crimes from felonies to misdemeanors, which come with a maximum penalty of one year in prison and a fine of $1,000 which reduces the number and duration of incarcerations.

State Question 781 was designed to allocate the funds made available by the prison cost savings to counties in proportion to their population and could be claimed by privately rehabilitative organizations and provide drug and mental health treatment, job training and education programs.

"We're now making it more difficult to remove violent offenders from the streets of Oklahoma," Bob Ricks, the Edmond PD chief, said.

Law enforcement officials and district attorney's from all over the state are coming together in opposition of SQ 780 & 781.

"Talk about unattended consequences drug courts will suffer. We're not going to be able to get people into our drug courts when they're facing just a simple few months in county. They'll choose to take the county time and not get the treatment that they need," Greg Mashburn, the District Attorney for Cleveland County, said.

However, supporters, like former state representative Kris Steele, disagree.

"It costs $19,000 a year to incarcerate an individual in Oklahoma as opposed to $6,000 a year to provide treatment and supervision in the community," Steele said.

Steele believes it's not just about cutting costs.

"These reforms apply to an individual who is caught possessing a small quantity of drugs to feed a personal habit. Ultimately, if we want to modify the behavior of that individual, we have to address the root cause behind the behavior," Steele said.

While much of the law enforcement community doesn't agree with this type of reform, they believe our state does need what they call smart reform.

"I think it balances both our individuals who suffer from mental illness and addiction without forgetting the victims of the other crimes that will now be much more likely to be committed," Mark Nelson, the Vice President for the Oklahoma State Fraternal Order, said.