OKLAHOMA CITY— The ACLU of Oklahoma is calling today upon the Oklahoma Legislature to clearly and unequivocally declare meaningful criminal justice reform a policy priority this legislative session. This type of declaration would send a strong message about the Legislature’s dedication to improving public safety while restoring the lives of their fellow Oklahomans.

Oklahoma, now officially the world’s largest per capita incarcerator, is in desperate need of immediate reform. Speaker McCall and other members of the legislature have indicated early support this session for criminal justice reform, but have so far advanced only minor legislation aimed at reform while also advancing legislation that would create new felonies for certain offenses.

On Tuesday, the House considered two pieces of legislation from the Governor’s Task Force for Criminal Justice Reform. Despite repeated assurances that reforms would be a central focus of this legislative session, only one of the considered bills was advanced. Today, the House Judiciary Committee approved legislation that would make theft of firearms a felony.

“This week’s actions call into question whether Speaker McCall and his colleagues are actually interested in criminal justice reform, or if they prefer to pay lip service to the voters while allowing a cruel and costly system to remain intact,” said Ryan Kiesel, Executive Director of the ACLU of Oklahoma. “Big words and standing ovations without action will never move us beyond the abysmal status quo. If Speaker McCall is indeed serious about criminal justice reform, he should move beyond vague gestures of support and tell the people of Oklahoma clearly and plainly which proposals will enjoy the full the support of his office.”

The ACLU of Oklahoma supports this session several measures aimed at reducing the number of people incarcerated in prisons and jails, and the number of people with felonies on their records. In addition to support for the Governor’s Task Force, the ACLU is hopeful that more legislation aimed at addressing mass incarceration will receive serious consideration and ultimately become law this session.

“If the legislature is ready to reduce our over-reliance on incarceration, as so many members have claimed, they must immediately halt their absurd attempts to further pack our prisons and declare support for reforms that could actually address the problem,” said Allie Shinn, Director of External Affairs for the ACLU of Oklahoma. “There is promising legislation on a number of fronts, such as Senator Roger Thompson's SB 969, which would retroactively apply the reforms of SQ 780. Senator Thompson has emerged as a true and bold leader on this issue. We encourage all those truly interested in reform to follow his lead.”

 

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