To the editor:
I would like to thank Michelle Charles for her article offering insight into State Question 805 which will be voted on Nov. 3. This is a “smart-on-crime” measure that is the result of an initiative petition that drew 250,000 signatures. It is needed because Oklahoma has one of the highest incarceration rates in the world and the highest for women.
SQ 805 does not apply to anyone convicted of a violent crime. Instead, it would prevent judges from using previous nonviolent convictions as a justification for increasing prison sentences for people convicted of new nonviolent crime. The result is that Oklahoma would prioritize its limited prison space for violent criminals, the people the public fears.
It is important to stress that SQ 805 will not stop us from holding people who commit domestic abuse accountable, because the legislature has passed a law that has made domestic abuse a violent crime. The sentence for repeated domestic abuse is 10 years, not four. And before someone convicted of domestic violence can be released on parole, they must pass two separate reviews by the parole board instead of one and the governor must sign off on their release.
Reducing the prison costs would free more money from our state budget to spend on the causative factors of crime, including mental health care and substance abuse. Our current system of increasing sentences for nonviolent crimes has not worked. Oklahomans with drug convictions spend 79% longer behind bars than the national average. This continues the cycles of poverty, destroys families and is bankrupting our state, leaving Oklahoma poorer, not safer. I encourage you to pass this smart-on-crime measure and vote “yes” on SQ 805.