Oklahoma voters not only cast ballots for president last week, they voted down a state question many hoped would end overcrowding in our prisons.
Of the 1,511,608 Oklahomans who voted, 923,328, or 61.08 %, voted against State Question 805. Another 588,280, or 38.92%, voted for the measure.
SQ 805 would alter the state’s constitution by limiting the practice of adding additional years to a person’s prison sentence because they have a previous nonviolent conviction in their past.
We are all for sentencing reform, but voters felt that SQ 805 was not the answer to Oklahoma’s high incarceration rates.
Opponents of SQ 805 said Oklahoma’s existing law classifies violent crimes like domestic abuse, the abuse of vulnerable adults, animal cruelty and using a computer to solicit a minor, as nonviolent.
They said it was dangerous to public safety because it prohibited judges, juries and prosecutors from being able to increase punishments for repeat offenders. It also would have prevented lawmakers from attempting to reclassify nonviolent offenses.
“We believe criminal justice reforms are important, and we should continue the discussions, but it should be done by the Legislature,” said Chad Warmington, president and CEO of the State Chamber of Oklahoma. His organization opposed SQ 805.
“It should be codified in statute, not the Constitution,” he said.
And, we agree. There needs to be a lot of work done to correct our faulty system. We hope to see legislators tackle this challenge and consider statutes as the appropriate course of action.