Criminal justice reform question regarding sentence enhancements to appear on November ballot

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OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – A group pushing for criminal justice reform says Oklahomans will be able to vote on the measure later this year.

Organizers say State Question 805 is a criminal justice reform measure that would end the use of sentence enhancements for nonviolent offenses, and it would allow inmates who have already received an extreme sentence to petition the court for relief.

A prison cell block (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images)
A prison cell block (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images)

Sentence enhancements add additional prison time for repeat offenders, often times well beyond what is considered the ‘maximum’ sentence for a crime.

“Our current system isn’t working,” said Sonya Pyles, with Tulsa Lawyers for Children. She added that studies show that sentence enhancements do not actually make the public safer.

Organizers say that compared to the national average, the sentences for people in Oklahoma are 79% longer for drug crimes and 70% longer for property crimes.

“These enhancements can go to life in prison,” said Sarah Edwards, president of Yes on 805.

In the past, Governor Kevin Stitt has said that he opposes the proposed state question.

“Trying to put this into our state’s constitution, it peels back enhancements for DUIs, human trafficking, domestic violence, some of the things I don’t think we need to put into our constitution,” Stitt said.

Since then, domestic violence has become a violent offense, meaning it does not qualify for relief under State Question 805.

Governor Kevin Stitt
Governor Kevin Stitt

Organizers argue that sentence enhancements rarely add much time to DUI sentences. Instead, sentence enhancements are most often used for property and drug crimes.

Trent England, with the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs, says that sentence enhancements are most often applied to non-violent drug offenses in the Sooner State.

“This is not something that is given to the worst of the worst… this is given to the average offender,” England said.

England says it wastes tax dollars, especially since sentence enhancements usually affect older adults who often have medical needs that must be paid for by taxpayers.

Petition

For several months, the campaign worked to collect 177,958 signatures in order to put the measure on the 2020 ballot.

In the end, the group said it collected more than 260,000 signatures.

Yes on 805 signature turn in
Yes on 805 signature turn in

Recently, the Oklahoma Supreme Court determined that the 248,521 verified signatures are sufficient to place State Question 805 on the November ballot.

Yes on 805 signature turn in

Oklahoma voters will see State Question 805 on the Nov. 3 ballot.

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