Oklahomans launch new petition to reduce prison population

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) –  A group working to reduce Oklahoma’s prison population is launching a new initiative petition that could lead to the release of hundreds more inmates.

A group of business, political and religious leaders filed the constitutional ballot initiative on Tuesday. The proposal would prohibit prosecutors from using previous felony convictions to enhance sentences in nonviolent cases. It would also allow people who already had such sentence enhancements to petition the courts for relief.

Once the petition is finalized, the group will have 90 days to gather nearly 178,000 signatures from registered voters to place the proposed constitutional amendment on the ballot.

The same group launched a successful initiative in 2016 that reduced criminal penalties and ultimately helped lead to the release of hundreds of inmates from prison last week.

“Oklahoma is coming off of a momentous win for criminal justice reform with the recent historic commutation of more than 500 men and women thanks to the leadership of Gov. Stitt, the Legislature and hard work of previous past reforms,” said Executive Director of Oklahomans for Criminal Justice Reform Kris Steele. “The progress we are seeing all started with the overwhelming support for reform Oklahomans demonstrated in 2016 with the passage of State Question 780. With this ballot initiative, Oklahoma voters have another opportunity to continue implementing best practices and take an additional step toward improving our criminal justice system.”

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