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Fallin and DAs Champion Criminal Justice Legislation, But Reform Advocates Ask What The Bills Do

Quinton Chandler
StateImpact Oklahoma
Gov. Mary Fallin, district attorneys and legislators announced an agreement on criminal justice legislation at a March 5 press conference.

Gov. Mary Fallin on Monday announced a compromise between district attorneys and Republican lawmakers on six bills they say will reduce Oklahoma’s prison population while maintaining public safety.

One criminal justice reform advocacy group is criticizing the timing of the announcement because the bills’ language still hasn’t been made public.

Lawmakers say the measures — House Bill 2281, HB 2286, Senate Bill 649, SB 689 and SB 786 — would rework punishments for property crime and other non-violent offenses, streamline the state’s parole system. A sixth bill which hasn’t been assigned a bill number will rework punishments for drug crimes.

Five of the six bills were introduced during the 2017 legislative session, but DAs were afraid the measures would hurt public safety. Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater says lawmakers worked with DAs to make changes.

Prater says one big concern was how proposed legislation would classify “nonviolent” offenders and determine their eligibility for early release. He and other DAs wanted to make sure “there truly is a real evaluation and understanding of what these offenders are there for.”

Oklahomans for Criminal Justice Reform, an independent group, said depending on its language, the compromise legislation may only slow prison growth and not reduce the overall population. The group also pointed out lawmakers hadn’t projected how many prison beds the legislation would empty.

The group plans to announce criminal justice reforms it supports later this week.

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Quinton joined the team at StateImpact Oklahoma in 2017, focusing on criminal justice reporting. He is an OSU grad with degrees in Economics and Marketing who got his start in radio at KOSU. After graduation, Quinton served as Morning Edition Host/General Assignment Reporter at KBBI Radio in Homer, Alaska and Education Reporter at KTOO Public Media in Juneau, Alaska. Quinton loves writing, reading and has an intense relationship with his Netflix account.
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