Proposed criminal justice amendment could lessen prison sentences in Oklahoma

Published: Aug. 15, 2020 at 2:08 PM CDT
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ARDMORE, Oklahoma (KXII) - On Wednesday, Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt approved State Question 805 to go on the November ballot.

The questions could prevent courts from using previous felony convictions to tack on extra years in prison sentences for non-violent offenders.

Marshall County Sheriff Danny Cryer said he doesn’t think its a good idea.

“Honestly I was appalled,” Cryer said. “I don’t think there’s any sheriff from this area that supports this.”

Cryer said the amendment could easily lead to recidivist criminals getting off easy.

“I think we need to hold our violators accountable to the fullest extent of the law,” Cryer said. “I think this greatly reduces that accountability.”

But he can see why some might support it.

“The reason its gonna look good to some people is that we have an extremely high incarceration rate as it is,” Cryer said. “This is going to help reduce those long prison stints and overcrowding our jails. That’s a huge drain on our financial society here in Oklahoma.”

Supporters also say it would reunite families of nonviolent offenders.

But District Attorney Craig Ladd said there’s more to it than that.

“They say that it’s just the non-violent ones, but what they’re not telling you is that includes domestic abusers,” Ladd said. “For whatever reason, that doesn’t fall under that list of violent crimes in Oklahoma.”

There are two bills in Oklahoma aimed at strengthening punishment for domestic violence, which passed committee in March, but they have not yet passed in the house or senate.

Nonviolent also wouldn’t include drunk driving convictions or burglaries when the home is unoccupied.

“We’ve got judges that are looking at these offenders, prosecutors, and every case is a little bit different,” Ladd said. “But to try to put a cap on a career criminal home burglar, drunk driver, or a domestic abuser, and treat them the same as a first time offender is nonsensical to me. I can’t imagine why anybody thinks that’s a good idea.”

“Our prisons are tasked with rehabilitation,” Cryer said. “If you can’t use those previous crimes, it shows that there has been no rehabilitation.”

Ladd said he has seen that happen.

“Sadly a significant number of cases I deal with involve recidivist career criminals,” Ladd said. “Whenever you’re dealing with someone like that you need to have a greater range of punishment. I mean really-it’s just fair.”

Cryer said people should make sure they understand what is on the ballot.

“Do your research before you go to the polls in November,” Cryer said. “Find out what you’re voting on and what’s going to pass.”

Early voting in Oklahoma starts October 29th, and election day is November 3rd.

Copyright 2020 KXII. All rights reserved.

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