OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – A group pushing for the end of sentence enhancements for nonviolent offenses is hosting a family-friendly community rally this weekend to collect signatures to put the question on the ballot.
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.
Sentence enhancements often add additional prison time for repeat offenders.
“Oklahoma has an incarceration crisis,” said Sarah Edwards, president of ‘Yes on 805.’ “This crisis separates families, damages communities and hurts our state’s chances of success. For several years, legislators have tried to pass legislation that would rein in sentence enhancements and reduce extreme sentences. These efforts have failed despite widespread support from state leaders and Oklahoma voters. This campaign is a continuation of recent criminal justice reform efforts, acknowledging that much more still needs to be done to address this crisis.”
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.
“Research shows that long prison sentences do not make us safer. Prosecutors can add years, decades, or even life in prison to any prison sentence, even for minor drug and property crimes. These sentence enhancements are costly for taxpayers and the economy without improving public safety,” said Mimi Tarrasch, chief program officer of Women in Recovery & Women’s Justice Programs at Family & Children’s Services. “Oklahoma women, and therefore their families, are hit especially hard by these extreme sentences. Oklahoma sends nearly twice as many women to prison per capita as the national average, and our state has had the highest female imprisonment rate in the country for nearly three decades. Women are generally the primary caregivers of children in the home. We can’t continue down this path of tearing families apart and hurting our communities.”
However, not everyone is on board with the movement.
Earlier this month, Gov. Kevin Stitt said 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.
The campaign will be working to collect 177,958 signatures by March 25 to put the measure on the 2020 ballot.
The community rally will be held in the auditorium at the Douglass on 600 N High Ave. on Saturday, Feb. 15 from 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.