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10 bills could drastically reform criminal justice in Oklahoma if approved

by Ezekiel J. Walker
david prater attorney general julius jones commutation oklahoma pardon and parole board
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The State of Oklahoma is introducing bills that could radically reshape the Sooner state.

According to Oklahoma Watch, among the proposals are House Bill 3316, which would authorize the state to automatically expunge certain criminal records, and Senate Bill 1458, which would eliminate several court fines and fees for the convicted.

To become law, bills must pass through House and Senate committees and receive favorable votes from both chambers. At that point, Republican Governor Kevin Stitt then has the authority to sign or veto the legislation.

The State of Oklahoma is ready to make change.

These bills, if approved, would have an immediate impact. Bills such as ‘Creating a Public Domestic Violence Offender Registry’ would address the record number of domestic violence reports in Oklahoma in 2020, OSBI data shows.

Also ‘Lowering Minimum Hiring Age for Correctional Officers’ from 20 to 18 would in hopes provide more eyes and bodies for the often outnumbered C.O.’s

Additionally, the Department of Corrections has struggled to hire and retain correctional officers. As of last fall, there were 471- funded correctional officer vacancies.

‘Outlawing Unmarked Police Vehicles in Traffic Stops’ is also a step in the right direction. Republican Senator of Oklahoma, Cody Rogers, believes “People tend to pay more attention and have better driving habits when marked police cars are around,” he said in a statement. “If we’re concerned about public safety, then we should get more of those vehicles out there.”

Decertifying Police Accused of Misconduct 

‘Eliminating Certain Court Fines and Fees’ would surely assist those in need to fight their case. A Tulsa World analysis discovered 66 to 90% of Oklahoma’s court system relies on court collections to fund basic operations from 2007 to 2019. The burden disproportionately falls on low-income individuals who are often unable to pay the exorbitant fees.

‘Ending Juvenile Life Without Parole’ seems like a no-brainer but only time will tell if this too shall pass. If approved, it would also forbid juvenile prison sentences that exceed 20 years.

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