Contact: Sheridan Betts
Conservative leaders support SQ 805
OKLAHOMA CITY (October 6, 2020) -- Jonathan Small, President of Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs; Trent England, David and Ann Brown Distinguished Fellow at Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs, and Ryan Haynie, Criminal Justice Reform Fellow for Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs, issued the following statement today in support of State Question 805:
One of America’s most popular conservative pundits is known for his catchphrase, “Facts don’t care about your feelings.” While people may feel differently about the policy of SQ 805, here are the facts.
Oklahoma has one of the highest incarceration rates in the country. We have the highest incarceration rate for women. Yet Oklahoma crime rates are not so extreme--neither in the very worst nor the very best among the states.
Oklahoma puts people in prison for much longer sentences than the national average. This includes sentences that are 70% longer for property crimes and 79% longer for drug crimes. Sentencing enhancements, which SQ 805 will curtail for nonviolent offenders, increase sentence lengths by 36% based on a study conducted by OCPA.
Corrections is the third-largest budget item for the state of Oklahoma. SQ 805 could reduce the prison population by 8.5% over the next 10 years, saving the state $186 million over that time.
SQ 805 isn’t just good fiscal policy. It also helps preserve liberty interests guaranteed by the Bill of Rights. Sentencing enhancements are frequently used as a “trial penalty.” In other words, the threat of a decades-long sentence can be used to coerce a defendant to plead guilty--forfeiting the constitutional right to a jury trial.
Achieving this through the referendum process is necessary because special interests, bureaucrats, and government bureaucracies have thwarted similar criminal justice reform bills in 2015, 2016, 2017, 2019, and 2020 at the Oklahoma legislature.
SQ 805 is smart on crime. It would reduce excessive sentences to help relieve our overcrowded prisons. It does not affect those who commit offenses the legislature has previously classified as violent. It would prevent people who commit less serious felony crimes from serving decades or even life in prison. Because of this, SQ 805 will result in cost savings without reducing public safety. A “yes” vote is a vote to continue making Oklahoma a Top 10 state.