Oklahoma Legislators Continue to Eye Criminal Justice Reform


With Oklahoma prisons overcrowded, and with the state at the top of the nation in incarceration rates, criminal justice reform is becoming a priority for state legislators. In general, Oklahoma inmates serve much longer sentences for nonviolent crimes than do their counterparts in other states. One of the primary ways the state is trying to combat the high incarceration rate and crowded prisons is by reducing sentencing for certain nonviolent crimes, and adding tiers to property crimes which would tie sentencing commensurate with the value of the property involved.

Last week the House of Representatives voted to adopt the Conference Committee Reports (CCR) on House Bills 2281 and 2286.

One of the reforms in HB 2281 is to amend the state's existing embezzlement law to add value tiers, thereby reducing sentences for many embezzlement crimes. The statute in 21 O.S. 1451 was amended in late 2016 by a vote of the people in SQ 780. Currently, law includes the following tiers:

  • less than $1,000 - up to one year in jail
  • $1,000 to less than $25,000 - up to 5 years in prison
  • $25,000 or more - up to 10 years in prison

House Bill 2281 would further define tiers and would change sentencing in keeping with the spirit of SQ 780. The new tiers and penalties would include the following:

  • less than $1,000 - up to one year in jail or one or more nights or weekends at the discretion of the court
  • $1,000 to less than $2,500 - up to one year in jail or up to 2 years in prison
  • $2,500 to less than $15,000 - up to 5 years in prison
  • $15,000 or more - up to 8 years in prison

Similar changes would be made to statutes involving other nonviolent property crimes, including bogus checks, uttering a forged instrument, counterfeiting, and more.

House Bill 2286 would make changes to parole by adding administrative parole, shortening the time a person convicted of a nonviolent crime must serve before becoming eligible for parole, adding parole eligibility requirements, and creating a new law to allow for geriatric parole. For those convicted of crimes occurring on or after November 1, 2018, they would become eligible for parole after serving one fourth of the sentence rather than one third. Additionally, they may be considered for parole up to two months before the eligibility date. Additionally, inmates who are 60 years old and who have served the shorter of 10 years or one-third of the sentence may become eligible for parole. These changes apply only to those convicted of nonviolent offenses. 
Both HB 2281 and HB 2286 now move to the Senate for vote.

With the Oklahoma Department of Corrections requesting more than $1 billion dollars in order to build two new prisons, it is clear that criminal justice reform is necessary. Our prisons are bursting at the seams, and it is in large part due to nonviolent inmates serving excessive sentences. Watch for additional criminal justice bills in the coming weeks.

All News

More News

New Oklahoma Laws Intended to Ease Human Trafficking


Typically, the bills passed by the Oklahoma legislature and signed..

Oklahoma Correctional Control: Understanding the Statistics


Oklahoma, for years, has been among the the nation's top in incarc..

Supreme Court Decision Could Impact the Shape of Oklahoma


In 1901, in advance of Oklahoma statehood, Congress announced that..

Despite Medical Marijuana License, Oklahoma Woman Charged with Drug Possession


An Adair County mother has been charged with illegal possession of..

Putnam City West Teens Accused in Locker Room Assault


Recent cases have revealed that locker room antics once perceived ..

Former State Senator Sentenced to 15 Years for Child Sex Trafficking


A federal judge sentenced former Oklahoma senator Ralph Shortey to..

Oklahoma Cities Adjust Ordinances after Medical Marijuana Legalization


After the passing of State Question 788, the law allowing medical ..

Oklahoma Dept. of Corrections Denies Death Penalty Protocol "Deadline"


Oklahoma, the state that invented lethal injection, continues to b..

Lincoln County Abuse Case Has Some Calling for Home School Reform


The case of a 15-year-old boy rescued from a family farm near Meek..

Oklahoma Health Department Seeks Legal Advice after Amending Medical Marijuana Rules


When Oklahomans passed State Question 788 last month, they left th..