OKLAHOMA CITY – You voted for it.
Now, some Oklahoma lawmakers want to undo it.
In November, voters passed State Questions 780 and 781, which would reform some drug offenses in Oklahoma.
“There is a significant disconnect between the voters of Oklahoma and the state legislature,” said Kris Steele, chairman of Oklahomans for Criminal Justice Reform.
Former House Speaker Steele led the push for SQ 780 and 781.
Nearly 60 percent of Oklahoma voters passed the measures.
780 reduces some drug and property crimes from felonies to misdemeanors.
Last week, with just 51 votes on the House floor, lawmakers essentially gutted the policy.
“The easiest thing to sell is fear and doubt,” Steele said.
Steele said the ‘Keep Oklahoma Children Safe from Illegal Drugs Act of 2017’ is misleading because 780 only reclassifies simple drug possession.
“If somebody were to try to give a child a drug or give anybody a drug for that matter, that remains a felony conviction,” Steele said.
Over the weekend, one national headline read: ‘Oklahomans Voted to Make the State’s Criminal Justice System Less Barbaric,’ asking, will legislators defy the will of the people?
After a rambunctious town hall last month, Senator Ralph Shortey pulled back his efforts to change 780, while the House bill moved forward.
The author, Rep. Scott Biggs, said he didn’t think voters understood the state questions.
District attorneys were opposed, claiming the threat of prison is necessary to deter drug addicts.
“Treatment won’t be on their radar screen, because why would I do treatment? I can just do a few months in county and be back in my old habits,” said Cleveland Co. District Attorney Greg Mashburn.
Steele said 75 percent of offenders who entered DOC custody in 2015 committed low level offenses.
It costs the state of Oklahoma $19,000 a year to incarcerate an individual and about $6,000 on average for treatment and supervision in the community.
“We can be just as tough for individuals who pose a legitimate danger to the community or public safety but twice as smart when it comes to low level offenders if we’ll just base our decisions on facts, research and data,” Steele said.
Gov. Fallin has said she’s opposed to the bill.
It’s now headed to the Senate.