When we announced the creation of a task force to study the current criminal justice system in Oklahoma County and its needed reforms, we knew that significant reform must be pursued on multiple levels. Since that time, we have seen a growing swell of support statewide.
In her February State of the State address, Gov. Mary Fallin called for significant reforms to the state’s criminal justice system, and in late February, Gov. Fallin signed an executive order that eliminates questions about prior felony convictions from job applications at state agencies. Reform measures are also being pursued with current legislation. Four Chamber- supported bills, each authored by Rep. Pam Peterson, R-Tulsa, were approved by the House on March 7:
• HB 2479 would reduce the mandatory punishment for certain drug offenses (only simple possession of controlled dangerous substances).
• HB 2751 would raise the threshold for property crimes to be charged as a felony from $500 to $1,000.
• HB 2753 would allow broader use of drug courts and community service instead of jail.
• HB 2472 would provide prosecutors discretion to file charges as misdemeanor instead of felony.
These bills, which are also supported by the Oklahoma District Attorneys Association, are successfully making their way through the legislature, and we are grateful for support from our legislative leaders on this issue. Meanwhile, we continue our work here in Oklahoma County to develop recommendations that will reduce incarceration in our community. The changes we make today will have a positive impact on generations to come – not only in Oklahoma County, but also statewide.