Oklahoma prosecutors voice concerns over proposed state question

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OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) – Oklahoma’s district attorneys are raising concerns about a proposed new ballot measure aimed at further reducing the state’s prison population.

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.

In a statement late Tuesday, Oklahoma District Attorneys Association President Jason Hicks said one problem is that crimes like child trafficking, aggravated assault and battery, and domestic abuse aren’t technically violent crimes under state law.

Hicks says state prosecutors are still examining the proposal, but says there are already elements that would be “detrimental, if not catastrophic, for public safety.”

District Attorney Angela Marsee says ignoring past convictions of repeat offenders is “detrimental to our mission.”

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