Bill that provides second chance to young offenders signed into law in Oklahoma

Oklahoma Politics

OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – A bill that would provide a second chance to young offenders in Oklahoma was signed into law this week.

Gov. Kevin Stitt signed Senate Bill 140 into law on Monday.

Sen. Michael Brooks, the bill’s author, says the measure is an important step to rehabilitate offenders, reduce recidivism and address the prison overpopulation.

“While some of us learned important life skills growing up, not everyone has the parental guidance and support system to help them get on the right path in life—instead, they often have to learn the hard way, which typically includes run-ins with the law. As a criminal defense attorney, I can say without a doubt that this delayed sentencing program gives these young men the guidance and tools they need to become productive members of society,” Brooks said. “It’s an important and necessary wake up call for many and has changed so many lives. I’m grateful to Representative Newton and the Department of Corrections for working with me on this important bill to transform lives, and also to the Legislature for the tremendous bipartisan support and diligence in getting it through the process.”   

Senate Bill 140 increases the age of participation from 21-years-old to 25-years-old for nonviolent, first time male offenders in the state’s Delayed Sentencing Program for Young Adults.

The program was started by the Department of Corrections as a deferred sentencing alternative for young adults between 18 and 21 who did not qualify as juvenile or youthful offenders.

The program is open to those who are found guilty or plea no contest for a nonviolent felony offense, or a juvenile who has been certified to stand trial as an adult for a nonviolent felony offense and who has no charges pending for a violent offense. Offenders also cannot have been convicted of certain crimes including assault and battery, first- or second-degree murder, kidnapping, crimes against children or drug trafficking.    

“This program has helped many young people turn their lives around, getting free from addictions, learning new skills for employment – all helpful in keeping them from returning to prison,” Rep. Carl Newton said. “I’m grateful for the opportunity to expand this program to even more people by increasing the age limit for participants. One of the prisons in my House district runs a very successful program that has helped many young men, and this will allow them to help even more. I’m also grateful to the Senate author for his help in drafting this bill and getting it through the legislative process and for the governor signing it into law.”

The “boot camp” style program includes services critical to rehabilitation like counseling, psychiatric or medical treatment, education or vocational training, work and restitution.

Sentencing is delayed until the program is completed. Based on a participant’s results, a judge can defer judgement, declare or suspend sentencing, recommend community sentencing or dismiss the criminal charges.    

The new law will go into effect on Nov. 1, 2021.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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