OKLAHOMA CITY - The ACLU of Oklahoma’s Campaign for Smart Justice released key findings of a survey completed by EMC Research of likely voters in 2020 that demonstrates support for criminal justice reform remains high across the state, no matter political affiliation.
The survey focused on currently proposed legislation, including present support for State Question 780 which passed in 2016, support on making it retroactive, and the need for bail reform.
Oklahoma remains the number one state for rate of per capita incarceration. This requires serious and urgent action to implement data-driven solutions. These findings show that these policies are also supported by the majority of voters statewide, across party lines. We need legislators to listen to those voters and move forward with meaningful criminal legal reform this session.
Key findings of the report include:
Oklahoma voters are more likely to vote for a state legislator who supports reforming bail practices by a 50-point margin.
Almost 3-in-4 voters (73%) support reforming bail practices in Oklahoma, including abolishing for-profit bail.
A majority of November 2020 likely voters across the state would support a proposal to retroactively reclassify felony convictions for minor drug and property theft offenses. Eighty percent (80%) of likely voters statewide support this proposal with just 19% opposing.
Likely voters say they continue to support state question 780 (76% Support; 24% Oppose) at an even higher margin than when it was passed in 2016.
There was some encouraging momentum last week, with several criminal justice reform measures making it out of committees, but there has also been some uncertainty cast upon those actions as the legislature seems set on a blanket striking of all criminal justice reform bill titles, leaving the possibility for significant changes to the language before the bills are heard on the floor. While there is always room to eliminate carve-outs that make these reforms less accessible to all, with such support for these changes, there is no room to water down these bills that could result in a long-term change to the climbing number of people incarcerated in Oklahoma.
With the strong support criminal justice reform has among voters, we hope legislators will take the time to listen to those who choose them to represent their values instead of players in the building set on protecting their power and the status quo.
“We have seen reform come out of the legislature, but very little of it has touched the pre-trial system and the burden money bail places on those who can least afford it. What we have currently is a two-tiered system of justice. Money bail is supposed to be used as a mechanism to secure reappearance in court, but the reality is it often becomes a mechanism for detention. For the same crime, those who can afford to pay bail can buy their freedom, while those who can’t afford to pay their bail are stuck in a cage at the risk of losing their jobs, housing, and even custody of their children. This is all while being presumed innocent by the state. We see that two-tiered system again and again, especially on statutes that have been changed, like those affected by state question 780. Voters have shown up at the polls demanding real change, and the findings here are further evidence they want Oklahoma to move closer to a system that offers a real chance at justice and puts people first. But that kind of change only happens when leaders are bold enough to step up and take action,” says Nicole McAfee, Campaign Manager for the ACLU of Oklahoma’s Campaign for Smart Justice.
The report is viewable on the Campaign for Smart Justice website, www.YourDAOK.org.
The ACLU of Oklahoma’s Campaign for Smart Justice is an unprecedented, multi-year effort to reduce the Oklahoma jail and prison population by 50 percent and to combat racial disparities in the criminal justice system. We are fighting in the legislature, the courts, and in the streets to end mass incarceration.
For more information about the ACLU’s Campaign for Smart Justice: