Criminal Justice Reform Group Wants Public Vote For Corrections Changes
A new coalition aimed at reforming Oklahoma's criminal justice system launched a ballot initiative Wednesday morning. Business, legislative and faith leaders joined together with corrections reform experts to reduce the prison population and save money.
Former Oklahoma House of Representatives Speaker Kris Steele leads Oklahomans for Criminal Justice Reform. The group filed a ballot initiative aiming to reclassify certain low-level offenses like drug and property crimes. Instead of felonies, the offenses would be considered misdemeanors under the initiative.
State Representative Pam Peterson (R-Tusla) says it's time to fall in line with other states across the country.
“There's a culture shift that's being made in this state and across the country,” Peterson said. “Being tough on crime is changing to being smart on crime.”
The organization hopes to use the cost savings to bolster Oklahoma's drug rehabilitation programs and mental health services. Money would also be used for education and job training.
“The purpose is to give low-level offenders a second chance. This proven approach helps people overcome underlying conditions of criminogenic behavior and return individuals to productive lives within our communities,” Steele said.
Steele says the campaign will use both paid staff and volunteers to gather the roughly 86,000 signatures needed to get the initiative on the ballot come November.