In November, Oklahomans will have the opportunity to cut crime and reduce big government in the courtroom.

State Questions 780 and 781 address Oklahoma’s overflowing prisons and high costs for criminal justice. SQ 780 reclassifies some low-level felony drug and property crimes as misdemeanors. SQ 781 requires the state to estimate the savings from these reclassifications and place that money towards recidivism prevention programs such as addiction treatment, education, and job training. It also increases funding or mental health treatment.

Studies show that by strategically reducing some sentences for non-violent offenses, crime rates can actually drop. Texas has taken this approach to great effect.

More than 110,000 Oklahoma voters signed petitions for these questions to go to a vote even though state law only requires 65,987 signatures.

Further, Oklahomans for Criminal Justice Reform will host several town hall events in the state to let local leaders advocate for the SQ’s. Leading the initiative is former House Speaker Kris Steele (R). During an interview with Oklahoma Watch, Steele notes that the measures would,

“Reduce the prison population, save money, and allow counties to make investments into evidence-based programming that improves public safety.

The budget for the Department of Corrections has grown by about 172 percent over the last two decades. And they’re still underfunded. There’s not enough money in the state of Oklahoma to pay for incarceration of all the people the Legislature wants to incarcerate.”

To improve the system, Oklahoma passed four major bipartisan bills into law on April 27th, 2016. H.B. 2472 gave prosecutors the discretion to file misdemeanor instead of felony charges for crimes not requiring offenders to serve 85% of their sentence, and H.B. 2753 expands drug courts and community sentencing for more defendants.  To fix mandatory minimum sentences, H.B. 2479 changes mandatory minimums and maximums for felony drug possessions. To fix property crimes, H.B. 2751 raised the threshold to be charged for property crimes.

These reforms aim to compliment the recent reforms. Oklahomans will give their own opinions about the criminal justice issue. State Questions 780 and 781 will be on the Oklahoma ballot in November 2016.