Letter: ATR Supports Oklahoma Senate Bill 704

To: Members of the Oklahoma Senate

From: Americans for Tax Reform

Re: ATR Supports Senate Bill 704

Dear Senator,

On behalf of Americans for Tax Reform and our supporters across Oklahoma, I urge you to support and approve Senate Bill 704 which would reform arbitrary, and costly sentence enhancements.

These enhancements are add-ons that can be piled on top of the base sentence, and are often used to pressure defendants into plea deals. They also put people away in Oklahoma for excessive periods of time beyond the sentencing guidelines for their offense, and most of these are nonviolent drug offenders. Taxpayers pay the price, and public safety does not benefit.

Oklahoma was ranked the worst state for incarceration rates in the U.S. in 2018. That same year, the Sooner State was dubbed “the world’s prison capital” for also having the highest rate of incarceration in the world. While Oklahoma has since slightly improved to 47th in incarceration nationally, reform is still urgently needed. 

Sentence enhancements were used against approximately 80% of nonviolent offenders convicted for crimes that would be covered by SB 704. Sentencing enhancements are in need of reform, and SB 704 will have a significant positive impact. An analysis from the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs finds SB 704 will save taxpayers as much as $137 million, and reduce the prison population by 1,400.

In 2020, State Question 805 faced criticism for what offenses counted as nonviolent for purposes of eliminating sentence enhancements. SB 704 would not eliminate sentence enhancements for the notable offenses SQ 805 would have impacted. This should remove any concerns that enhancements would be eliminated for anything but nonviolent offenses.

For these reasons, we urge you to support SB 704, a commonsense, conservative update to Oklahoma’s sentence enhancements.

If ATR can be of assistance, please do not hesitate to contact me or State Projects Director Doug Kellogg at 202-785-0266, or [email protected].

Sincerely,

Grover G. Norquist

President

Americans for Tax Reform