Reformed Drug Sentencing Laws in Oklahoma May Not Be Sufficient to Ease Prison Overcrowding

Jul 2, 2017

Credit Clifton Adcock / Oklahoma Watch

New criminal justice laws in Oklahoma, approved by voters last November, went into effect last week but as Oklahoma Watch reports, the laws are still shrouded in uncertainty.

The idea behind State Questions 780 and 781 is to ease overcrowding in state prisons, while lessening the burden on taxpayers. SQ 780 will make simple possession of any drug a misdemeanor, with the goal of imprisoning fewer people, while SQ 781 will direct the savings from the sentencing reductions to fund mental health and substance abuse programs.

But advocates for the new laws say the efforts may be undermined by prosecutors and a fear lingers that, even if the new laws are successful, the attempt won’t be sufficient to stem the tide of overcrowding in Oklahoma’s bloated prison system.

To further ameliorate the problem, lawmakers introduced a dozen more bills aimed at reducing overcrowding during the last legislative session. Only three passed.