State Question 780

Quinton Chandler / StateImpact Oklahoma

Multiple polls show the majority of Oklahoma voters support criminal justice reforms.

Survey data commissioned by Oklahoma Public Radio stations for the Oklahoma Engaged project also suggest a majority of voters believe the state’s sentencing laws need to be reworked.

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.

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.

This Week in Oklahoma Politics, KOSU's Michael Cross talks with Republican Political Consultant Neva Hill and ACLU Oklahoma Executive Director Ryan Kiesel about accusations of thousands of dollars in back child support against House Appropriations Chairman Kevin Wallace, legislators are heading into the 2019 session with more than 2,800 bills and one of those is a bipartisan measure to make State Question 780 retroactive.

Quinton Chandler / StateImpact 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.

Quinton Chandler / StateImpact Oklahoma

People enrolled in the Oklahoma County Drug Court have to report to a lab for drug tests. Judge Kenneth Stoner tells more than a dozen men and women sitting on the hard wooden benches of his courtroom that if the lab is open, they have to go. 

Even if there’s a snow storm, he said. “Get snowshoes — find a dog sled team.”

Drug court participant Matt Hall says drug court comes with strict deadlines. “You signed up for the program, so you have to be accountable to do all these things in order to get sobriety,” he said.

This Week in Oklahoma Politics, KOSU's Michael Cross talks with Republican Political Consultant Neva Hill and ACLU Oklahoma Executive Director Ryan Kiesel about nearly $600M extra for the state to allocate in the coming fiscal year, incoming Governor Kevin Stitt nominate Blayne Arthur to be the state's first female Secretary of the Agriculture and a federal judge declares an OKC ordinance banning panhandling in certain medians constitutional.

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Twenty-one people were released from state prisons Wednesday after Gov. Mary Fallin commuted their sentences for drug-related crimes.

Fallin reduced the sentences for 20 women and one man to time-served. A spokesperson for the governor’s office said the people were released the same day Fallin signed their commutations.

A criminal justice reform advocacy group helped the people receive rare recommendations for reduced sentences from the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board last month. In one recent year, the board made similar recommendations for only 19 of 477 applicants. 

Quinton Chandler / StateImpact Oklahoma

Twenty years is a long time to live with a drug addiction, but Rachel Wachel has done it. She tends bar, has a house and a car — and calls herself a functioning addict.

“I’m very open and honest about it because what do you do besides try to work with it the best way you can,” she says, exiting an an Oklahoma County courtroom.

Wachel’s lawyer is working to get her a suspended sentence for a misdemeanor drug possession charge. She’s addicted to opiate painkillers and says she takes half a pill three times a day.

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