Oklahoma City, Okla. (May 1, 2019) – Governor Kevin Stitt today announced policy proposals on criminal justice reform for the 2019 Legislative session with support from prominent Oklahoma community leaders.
“With only a few weeks remaining in the Legislative session, I am keenly focused on ensuring significant movement is made on criminal justice reform,” said Governor Kevin Stitt. “Oklahomans and community leaders agree that we need to reform the funding structure for our District Attorneys and Courts, we must invest in diversion and treatment programs, and we must release non-violent offenders from prison who were sentenced on drug charges under old laws. We can accomplish these reforms this year in a way that continues to keep our streets safe and ensures Oklahomans who are facing addiction and health challenges can take hold of opportunities for a second chance. Much more progress needs to be made, and I am committed to keeping criminal justice a top priority in my administration.”
The proposals are as follows:
FINES & FEES FUNDING REFORM: With growing support in the Legislature, the governor is calling for a new funding structure for District Attorneys and Courts that sends fines and fees to the General Revenue fund to then be appropriated. The new structure will eliminate the existing conflict of interest in our system between generating revenue and administering justice. The new funding structure will result in fewer fines and fees and fewer individuals in a debtor’s prison.
TREATMENT AND DIVERSION FUNDING: The governor is calling for more than $10 million in critical investments to fund programs that help Oklahomans break the cycle of incarceration, address mental health needs, and assist with reintegration. The Legislature has demonstrated a strong support for additional funding sources and negotiations are ongoing on the best method to administering additional public funds.
SECOND CHANCE REFORM: The governor is calling for passage of HB 1373, legislation which would allow Oklahomans with a nonviolent felony conviction to be licensed in occupations so long as the occupation is not substantially related to the offense. This reform removes one of the major barriers to opportunity that exists for Oklahomans to be productive and contribute to society, even after they have already paid the price for their crime. Allowing Oklahomans to have a second chance, instead of a second incarceration, is a benefit to everyone in our state.
RETRO-IMPACT FOR SQ780 POPULATION: The governor supports a compromise to create an expedited commutation process to release offenders currently incarcerated on drug possession crimes or any other felony that would now be a misdemeanor due to a change in laws. The governor also supports an expedited expungement process to expunge the conviction for Oklahomans who were convicted on drug possession crimes or any other felony that would now be a misdemeanor due to a change in laws.
This can be accomplished in the 2019 Legislative session by amending HB 1269.
“We need to release Oklahomans who are currently in prison for nonviolent crimes and were incarcerated on drug possessions that would now be a misdemeanor due to changes in laws. We can responsibly commute hundreds of Oklahomans through the Pardon and Parole board this year with an expedited process, while also ensuring that we do not release violent offenders and overwhelm our system that needs more time and investment in diversion and reintegration programs. This compromise marries justice reform with public safety, and I urge swift passage,” said Governor Kevin Stitt.
PAROLE MORE INMATES AND REFORM PAROLE SUPERVISION: The governor supports Senate Bill 616 to eliminate the ability of inmates to waive their parole and to create parole supervision standards that reduce those returning to prison, by focusing on intermediate sanctions unless a parolee has absconded, committed a new crime, or violated a sex offender rule.
"Currently, when we deny a person parole we have no way of telling them why. Therefore we lose the ability to incentivize good behavior and instill hope in people that if they make an effort to change, they will be rewarded. If we want to see people change for the better we must tell them the changes we want to see. This legislation puts us on a path to doing exactly that,” said Kelly Doyle, member on the Pardon and Parole Board.
MAJOR 2020 REFORMS ON SENTENCING AND DIVERSION FROM PRISON: Governor Stitt is calling for the legislature to work on and pass an overhaul to classify the criminal code in 2020, to remove outdated crimes, update all our crimes by classifications of A/B/C, determine what is violent and nonviolent, and make it possible to create all new sentencing and enhancement standards based on the modernized classifications. The Criminal Justice Reclassification Coordination Council is currently working to report recommendations by the 2020 Legislative session. Classifying the criminal code will protect public safety and shrink our prisons by modernizing criminal laws, linking much-needed bail reform to classifications, and creating alternatives to incarceration that are effective and save money.
Support for the criminal justice reform agenda are as follows:
“I am grateful Governor Stitt is taking immediate action to make progress on addressing the long-standing issues in Oklahoma’s criminal justice system. I am equally excited to see Governor Stitt and his team casting a vision for a multi-year strategy to move Oklahoma out of the highest in the world incarceration rate that will improve public safety, be a better use of state resources, and restore the lives of thousands of Oklahoma,” said Adam Luck, member of the Pardon and Parole Board.
“We are encouraged by the momentum building for significant criminal justice reform. Enacting legislation that takes our state out of the lead position in incarceration is critical to our economic vitality,” said Roy Williams, President and CEO of Oklahoma City Chamber.
“This package of criminal justice reforms will continue to move Oklahoma forward by investing in diversionary treatment options, better aligning law enforcement funding, and reducing our prison population—all while ensuring public safety. As indicated in our OK2030 plan, Oklahoma’s business community is constantly in need of skilled workers and wants to be part of the solution to help people get back to work,” said Fred Morgan, president of the Oklahoma State Chamber.
“We at the Tulsa Regional Chamber are in agreement with Governor Stitt: Oklahomans deserve a modernized justice system that advances—not burdens—economic prosperity in our state. We look forward to continued partnership with the governor and legislative leadership to advance this critical priority for the business community,” said Mike Neal, President and CEO of the Tulsa Chamber.
“The reforms proposed by Governor Stitt are common sense, much needed, will save money for the state and give a fair shake to people stuck in our justice system. I strongly encourage their approval,” said former Oklahoma City Mayor Kirk Humphreys.
“These are necessary reforms for Oklahoma if we want to see families reunited with their children and have the opportunity for a second chance to provide for their loved ones. Common sense solutions like these go beyond politics and should be expedited by the legislature before the 2019 session ends,” said Joe Dorman, CEO of the Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy, 2014 Democratic nominee for Governor of Oklahoma and six-term member of the Oklahoma Legislature, D-Rush Springs.
“Oklahoma’s criminal justice system is riddled with systemic problems that take more than incremental actions to cure. Governor Stitt’s willingness to address how we do things in Oklahoma, like stop the funding of district attorneys and courts through fines and fees, echoes the voices in our state that want positive and meaningful change now. We applaud him for taking a stand for what is right,” said Joe Griffin, Communications and Policy Coordinator for Right on Crime.
“Meaningful work post-incarceration can spell the difference between getting back on track or returning to bad habits. We must empower Oklahomans with nonviolent convictions to make the right choice and rejoin the workforce. To do this, we must break down barriers to employment—and this bill does just that, by allowing reformed individuals to acquire an occupational license and work,” said Tom Newell, Government Affairs Director for Foundation for Government Accountability.
“On behalf of the over 1.8 million members and supporters of the Faith & Freedom Coalition, we strongly support the legislative package put forward by Governor Stitt to reform fines and fees, increase treatment and diversion funds, remove barriers to employment, improve commutations and parole and update the criminal code. These bold reforms promote public safety and give people in prison access to the transformational programming they need to earn back the public’s trust and to return home as good spouses, parents and neighbors. We applaud the thoughtful deliberations resulting in this important reform legislation as well as Governor Stitt’s leadership. Crime demands accountability. Punishment should be proportionate to the offense and prisons should reflect the social values we expect men and women to practice upon release. This legislative package reflects these goals and is a critical step forward that will increase public safety, reduce costs, strengthen families and change lives in Oklahoma for the better,” said Timothy Head, Executive Director of Faith & Freedom Coalition.
“Governor Stitt started working from day one of his first year in office to create a more effective justice system in Oklahoma. Oklahoma’s prisons are in crisis, overcrowded and understaffed, and these proposals are part of the long road towards recovery for Oklahoma. The Justice Action Network supports these efforts to reform parole practices, fund critically-needed treatment and diversion beds, and open up jobs for those with a criminal record by modernizing Oklahoma’s system of state-run occupational licenses, and we look forward to working with the Governor and legislative leaders on both sides of the aisle as they continue their efforts towards reform,” said Jenna Moll, Deputy. Director of Justice Action Network.
"We applaud Governor Stitt for his leadership on criminal justice reform and second chance initiatives. Conservative leaders across the country have embraced criminal justice reform specifically because of their conservative values. These reforms enhance public safety, promote the family, and bring the benefits of a strong economy to people who may have otherwise may have been denied opportunities because of a mistake from their past. We urge the Oklahoma Legislature to build on the momentum that at the federal and state levels pass these common-sense criminal justice reform and second chance measures,” said Adam Brandon, President of FreedomWorks.
“We commend Governor Stitt for making this effort a priority and encourage him to push forward on bold reforms that will make sure Oklahoma is no longer first in the nation for incarceration,” said John Tidwell, Americans for Prosperity Oklahoma.
“Governor Stitt’s criminal justice reform proposals will make the Sooner State a safer, better place to live and work. By advancing policies that are smart on crime and soft on taxpayers, all Oklahomans will benefit from a more just system,” said Mark Holden, Senior Vice President, Koch Industries, Inc.
“When the law changes, the situations of those previously affected by the law should change as well. I applaud Governor Stitt and the entire Oklahoma legislature for coming together under the shared banner of criminal justice reform. This is – no doubt – a good first step to develop a criminal justice system that is more fair, which instills the principles of dignity and trust in all Americans,” said Lisa B. Nelson, CEO of ALEC Action.
“The Criminal Justice Reform agenda recommended by Governor Kevin Stitt, Senator Kim David and Representative Jon Echols is exactly what is needed. Their policy solutions are going to result in improving the lives of all Oklahomans, especially the most vulnerable and taxpayers. They deserve credit for boldly challenging and working to reform the broken status quo. OCPA stands ready to help advance these reforms.” -- Jonathan Small serves as president of the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs, a free-market based think tank," said Jonathan Small, President of Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs.
“It is imperative that Oklahoma continues to make progress on criminal justice reforms this year and I support the governor’s proposals to ensure we get important policy across the finish line this Legislative session. Is there more to do? Absolutely. That is why the governor’s commitment to be a leader and visionary on this topic throughout his time in office is equally important. It will take bold sentencing reforms and more investment in rehabilitation and diversion programs to change our state’s #1 incarceration ranking," said David Rainbolt, Executive Chairman of BancFirst Corporation.