criminal justice

This Week in Oklahoma Politics, KOSU's Michael Cross talks with Republican Political Consultant Neva Hill and ACLU Oklahoma Executive Director Ryan Kiesel about a row in a Senate committee over a gubernatorial nomination for Finance Secretary as worry grows concerning executive power over state agencies, criminal justice advocates worry about a former corrections reform opponent working on Stitt's team and the House opens an investigation against a Republican lawmakers leveled by the co-founder of the Sooner Tea Party.

Should people convicted of a crime be allowed to vote while in prison?

It's a question that's divided 2020 Democratic presidential candidates and sparked attacks from President Trump and his allies.

At a CNN town hall event on April 22, presidential hopeful and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders was asked whether his support for allowing inmates to vote would extend to Boston Marathon bomber, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. Tsarnaev has been sentenced to death for his role in the 2013 attack.

Quinton Chandler / StateImpact Oklahoma

Criminal justice measures moving through the legislative process got a boost this week as Gov. Kevin Stitt announced a new initiative Wednesday focused on giving offenders second chances.

Quinton Chandler / StateImpact Oklahoma

An arrest in Roger Mills County ends with a drive into the sheriff department’s garage and a short walk through the jail’s heavy door. Sheriff Darren Atha and his deputies bring their prisoner inside, they search them, sit them down in a brown chair and start booking them.

The Roger Mills County Jail is roughly 20 miles from the state’s western border. It’s a small rural jail that holds up to 28 people and Sheriff Atha says it’s a safe place to be.

“We just really don’t operate a dungeon,” Atha said.

After spending 15 years in prison for a drug offense, Randy Rader had almost lost hope that he might get out of prison before his release date in 2023.

If Rader's conviction for 5 grams of crack cocaine — his third drug offense — had happened after 2010, he would have received a much shorter sentence. But the 2010 Fair Sentencing Act, which cut down on the disparity between penalties for crack cocaine and powder cocaine, did not apply to those already serving time.

Quinton Chandler / StateImpact Oklahoma

Millions of dollars to make more room in the state’s drug courts, mental health courts, and community sentencing programs could be a possibility under a bill now being considered by the Oklahoma Senate.

State Representative John Waldron wants the Legislature to authorize a new fund to pay for up to 875 additional people to be diverted into treatment programs instead of prison.

LLUDO / FLICKR (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

With a huge freshman class and a promise for less gridlock, Oklahoma lawmakers filed more than 2,800 bills this legislative session. With a third of the session now over, the StateImpact team has an update on some bills we’re following.

 

Health

 

Quinton Chandler / StateImpact Oklahoma

Tracy Smallwood says her life before she went to prison was just “dead time.”

“I was always in a room just getting high,” Smallwood explained. “But there’s so much more. So much more out there.

Smallwood tries to hold back tears in her two-bedroom apartment north of downtown Tulsa. Today, she’s an active church member, she’s in a 12-step recovery program and she works as a forklift operator. However, a few months ago, she was in prison for multiple drug-related convictions.

San Francisco officials plan to expunge more than 9,000 marijuana convictions dating back to 1975, the city's highest law enforcement official said Monday.

Latosha Poston says she made a lot of mistakes in her life. Her legal troubles began in her teens after her first child was born in Indianapolis. Over the years, bad decisions led to some arrests, some convictions.

"Sometimes we get stuck in our past and let our past guide us," she says.

The 44-year-old has worked hard to straighten out her life. But her criminal records — all involving misdemeanors — continued to haunt her as she tried to find a decent job and place to live.

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