OKLAHOMA CITY — In response to the 2019 legislative session, the ACLU of Oklahoma released the following statement:
The following is attributable to Nicole McAfee, Director of Policy and Advocacy for the ACLU of Oklahoma:
“The Oklahoma Senate granted Oklahomans hope today with the passage of HB 1269. This measure, often referred to as 780 retroactivity, would build on the historic grassroots ballot initiative Oklahomans passed with overwhelming support in 2016, by providing an expedited option for release for people still incarcerated for convictions that today would carry no prison time. We estimate about 1,000 Oklahomans will be returned to their communities and their families, and that tens of thousands more will qualify for an amended expungement process around a 780 felony conviction. This bill was a bipartisan effort, first championed last year by Senator Roger Thompson, whose leadership in the legislature on criminal justice reform remains unmatched.
Yet, while we celebrate HB 1269 for all of those who are eligible, many more Oklahomans held onto a chance they too would be able to access a more just criminal legal system only to watch their legislature fall short. Whether it was jury sentencing reform, limits on the often unchecked discretion of district attorneys to charge someone with the dubious crime of possession with intent to distribute, or by reforming our cash bail and pre-trial system, Oklahomans are, again, forced to wait another year for the chance to adopt these and other meaningful reforms. Bipartisan opposition stopped the legislature from meeting both campaign promises and professional duties to serve the interests of all Oklahomans by ensuring equal access to justice.
Tens of thousands of Oklahomans will spend this holiday weekend, and too many more holidays to come, in prison or jail away from their families, communities, and jobs, without any real purpose of public safety or rehabilitation. So while there is cause to celebrate some progress, we must give pause to any declarations of victory. For as long as there are people who find themselves and their families trapped in an unjust and broken criminal justice system, we will keep fighting to hold all of our elected officials, from legislators to sheriffs, and district attorneys, who have succeeded in preserving the broken status quo, accountable, so that next year is different. Anything less is simply unacceptable.”