Legislation filed in Oklahoma requiring racial impact statement in criminal justice reform bills

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OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – A State Senator from Oklahoma City filed a bill on Thursday requiring a racial impact statement for criminal justice reform bills.

Oklahoma State Capitol

Senator George Young (D-Oklahoma City) filed Senate Bill 1184. The bill would require a racial impact statement for any Senate or House bill that does any of the following: creates a new offense; significantly changes an existing offense; changes the penalty for an existing offense; or changes existing sentencing, parole or probation procedures.

Also, SB 1184 requires that a racial impact statement has to be filed with a committee’s chairman for a criminal justice bill to be heard in the committee. A new racial impact statement would need to be prepared if the bill is amended, according to a Oklahoma State Senate news release.

Young says minorities are disproportionately impacted by Oklahoma’s criminal justice system. He says state leaders need to reform how criminal justice decisions are made by analyzing the impact of proposed legislation on minorities through racial impact statements.

“Incarceration disparities lead to generational cycles of trauma and economic disadvantage,” Young said. “A racial impact statement would allow lawmakers a chance to identify any discriminatory impact toward minority groups. The goal is to reduce the gap of racial and ethnic disparities.”

Under SB 1184,  the Oklahoma Statistical Analysis Center at the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation – with help from the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services and the Office of Juvenile Affairs – would draft each racial impact statement.

The bill requires that racial impact statements include the following: the estimated number of criminal cases per year the legislation would affect; the impact of the bill on a minority; and the impact of the bill upon correctional facilities and services.

Iowa, Connecticut, Florida, Oregon and New Jersey have already implemented racial impact statements, and similar legislation has been introduced in eight other states, according to the news release.

“Oklahoma has the highest rate of black incarceration in the country,” Young said. “Hispanics and Native Americans are also overrepresented in our Oklahoma prisons. Adding racial impact statements is vital to addressing these disparities in our criminal justice system.”

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