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Politics

New Criminal Justice Bill Could Save Oklahoma $134 Million Over Next Decade

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Jacob McCleland / Oklahoma Public Media Exchange
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A conservative think tank supporting a bill that would limit the practice of giving higher prison sentences to repeat nonviolent offenders says the move would save millions of dollars even though its benefits would affect fewer people than a recent failed state question.

The Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs claims that if Senate Bill 704 passes, 1,400 fewer people would be incarcerated in state prisons over 10 years and the state would save at least $134 million.

The bill attempts to stop courts from increasing the maximum sentencing range for people convicted of nonviolent felonies who have one or more other felony convictions in their past.

It follows State Question 805 which made a similar attempt but failed last year. Advocates for Senate Bill 704 say it addresses complaints against last year’s state question.

The legislation does not attempt to amend the state constitution and its benefits would not extend to people convicted for domestic violence, DUIs that cause injuries or animal cruelty. The bill also includes language to make sure higher sentences could still be used on defendants convicted of sex crimes.

The predicted cut to the state’s prison population and dollars saved are slightly lower than those promised in an analysis of State Question 805.

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