The City Sentinel Staff Report
OKLAHOMA CITY – Kris Steele, executive director with Oklahomans for Criminal Justice Reform (OCJR), released the following statement in response to the recent passage of Senate Bill 334 in the Oklahoma House of Representatives:
“Oklahoma lawmakers have taken a step backwards on criminal justice reform today by passing Senate Bill (S.B.) 334, sending the bill back to the Senate.
“S.B. 334 will roll back certain parts of State Question 780, which reclassified low-level property offenses to misdemeanors. It will double the length of time in which prosecutors can aggregate multiple property offenses to create a felony offense.
“It will cost Oklahoma taxpayers about $20,000 a year to incarcerate a person convicted of stealing $1,000 worth of items. S.B. 334 will only lead to more felony charges, longer sentences and will increase our prison population. Research has shown that this will not increase public safety nor deter crime.
“The passage of S.B. 334 goes directly against the will of the voters who passed SQ 780 into law and still support it today. Recent polling from WPA Intelligence shows 69 percent of Oklahomans want criminal justice reform and 76 percent continue to support State Question 780.
“Justice reform advocates across the state are deeply disappointed in the passage of this bill. The bill now heads back to the Senate, and we urge the Senate to not pass S.B. 334 and instead focus its efforts on policy that improves public safety and invests in treatment and rehabilitation.”
Introducing Steele’s comments in a press release, OCJR staff summarized the likely impact of S.B. 334, if enacted, saying the measure “damages the impact of prior criminal justice reforms that safely reduce Oklahoma’s prison population and reinvest in alternatives.”