Monday, September 26, 2016

Okie voters will set tone for red-state drug-war legislation

For mostly historical, family reasons (both sides of my family are from the Texas Panhandle, with ties to Oklahoma), Grits has always enjoyed ribbing our friends from Oklahoma, contending for example that the best thing ever to come out of the state was I-35 and arguing to build a border wall along the Red River instead of the Rio Grande.

But I've got to give our Okie neighbors credit where it's due: Their Legislature A ballot initiative put two measures - Props 780 and 781 - on the November ballot to reduce penalties for low-level drug possession from a felony to a misdemeanor and divert the savings to counties "to provide community rehabilitative programs, such as mental health and substance abuse services." If passed, Oklahoma's felony threshold on property crimes would be increased to $1,000, according to Ballotopedia, compared to $2,500 in Texas, which increased its threshold amount in 2015. See coverage from Fusion and commentary from Doug Berman at Sentencing Law and Policy.

Oklahoma's Republican Governor Mary Fallin has been much more of a leader on these issues than Greg Abbott, vetoing tough-on-crime legislation, championing clemency, and implementing ban the box policies at state agencies.

These ballot measures would put Oklahoma ahead of the curve compared to Texas regarding smart-on-crime policies on the drug war, but still much more regressive on property-theft thresholds. Still, perhaps Texas may soon lose its (sometimes overstated) reputation as red-state criminal-justice reform leader if the Sooner state passes these measures on a ballot topped by Trump/Clinton and Gov. Fallin continues to champion these and similar causes. OTOH, if the ballot measures lose it could set red-state decarceration reform back five years. Important vote.

MORE: From Oklahomans for Criminal Justice Reform.


Gadfly said...

The best thing to come out of Oklahoma is the Sooner Schooner running over Bevo at the Cotton Bowl.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

That's not how I remember it happening last year. :)

Gadfly said...

Even a blind Bevo can find an acorn at Fair Park on occasion, right? :)

Unknown said...

FYI, State Questions 780 and 781 were put on the ballot by Oklahoma voters via signature petition rather than by the legislature. Great post, regardless!

Gadfly said...

Unk: Initiative! Oklahoma's lots more progressive, or populist, or something, than Texas. Of course, as California has shown, special interests can ram astroturfed initiatives down the public throat.

Anonymous said...

As a former Texas living and teaching at an OK University, I can safely say that OK is trying to get smart on crime as a result of spending so much on prisons and getting so little in return.
Kudos to Chris Steele former OK Speaker of the House who has been visiting all over the state raising awareness about the folly of the War on Crime/Drugs and giving people the facts. In fairness, the Governor only got on board after recognizing the ground swell of support resulting from this grass roots initiative. It is a beginning and we hope that we here in OK will continue to move the reform initiatives forward. The people are leading on this one, the politicians are following.

Ray said...

Texas has come far in addressing substance abuse issues in the crimninal justice sytem. So has Oklahoma. However, there is still much work to be done in both states. In Texas, the Texas Association of Specialty Courts (TASC) is leading the effort to create more specialized court programs to reduce crime, protect our citizens and address the issue of addiction locally. Hookem Horns!

Judge Ray Wheless
President, Texas Association of Specialty Courts

Anonymous said...

What about the bill the Ok. Gov. signed recently giving the State Troopers the right to automatically enforce Asset Forfeiture of motorist if their computer gives them suspicion?

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