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Oklahoma Legislators Launch Bipartisan Effort To Make State Question 780 Retroactive

Quinton Chandler / StateImpact Oklahoma
Jess Dunn Correctional Center in Taft, Oklahoma.

Two state lawmakers filed a bipartisan bill Thursday to make State Question 780 retroactive.

The 2016 ballot initiative reclassified felony drug possession and some felony property crimes often associated with addiction as misdemeanors. Generally, the most severe sentence for a misdemeanor conviction is a year in county jail.

Republican House Majority Leader Jon Echols and Democrat Jason Dunnington, both of Oklahoma City, partnered on the bipartisan measure, House Bill 1269, which would reduce sentences for every person in state prisons serving felony time for crimes now classified as misdemeanors.

If lawmakers approve the bill, thousands of people could see their sentences reduced or potentially qualify for early release.

Data from the Oklahoma Department of Corrections suggest that in just the fiscal year prior to SQ 780’s passage 1,483 people were sent to prison for felonies that are now considered misdemeanors.

An additional 2,944 people were incarcerated for a mix of felonies reduced to misdemeanors by SQ 780 and felonies that weren’t affected by the ballot initiative.

Quinton Chandler worked at StateImpact Oklahoma from January 2018 to August 2021, focusing on criminal justice reporting.
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