The City Sentinel Staff Report
OKLAHOMA CITY – A measure to allow more people to qualify for the state’s Delaying Sentencing Program for Young Adults received unanimous approval Wednesday evening by the Senate.
Sen. Michael Brooks, D-Oklahoma City, is the author of Senate Bill 140 to allow nonviolent, first time male offenders to participate in the program up to the age of 25, rather than 21.
“Oklahoma leaders have finally realized that we must be smarter on crime and help address the issues that cause people to commit crimes. As a criminal defense attorney, this is the single most impactful program for these nonviolent, first time offenders and has proven successful in significantly reducing recidivism,” Brooks said.
“This bootcamp-type program gives young men the opportunity to get a second chance at life and teaches them important life skills and how to be a productive citizen—something many of them weren’t taught at home.”
The Department of Corrections (DOC) started the program – also known as the Regimented Inmate Discipline (RID) program — which is a deferred sentencing option for young adults who aren’t juveniles or youthful offenders.
To be eligible for the program, offenders must be between the ages of 18-21 as of the date of a guilty verdict or a guilty/no contest plea for a nonviolent felony offense or a juvenile who has been certified to stand trial as an adult for a nonviolent felony offense, who has no charges pending for a violent offense.
The offender also cannot have been convicted for several crimes including assault and battery, first- or second-degree murder, kidnapping, any crime against a child or any kind of drug trafficking.
Participants go through a strict “boot camp” type program where they learn respect for authority, themselves and others. Services while in the program include counseling, psychiatric or medical treatment, education or vocational training, work, restitution, and other program help in their rehabilitation.
Sentencing is delayed until the individual finishes the program at which time, a judge can defer the judgement, sentence the offender, suspend the sentence, sentence the individual to community sentencing or dismiss the criminal charges altogether.
S.B. 140 was requested by DOC as the number of qualified participants dropped dramatically after State Question 780 changed simple possession to a misdemeanor. Given the success of the program, the agency asked that the maximum age for participants be increased for the state to fully utilize the program.
Rep. Carl Newton, R-Cherokee, is the principal House author of the bill, which now goes to the House for further consideration.