Gov. Fallin praises criminal justice reform bills

OKLAHOMA CITY, OK (KSWO) –Four bills authored by Rep. Pam Peterson, all designed to reform the criminal justice system, have passed the Oklahoma House of Representatives.

House Bill 2472 allows district attorneys to file charges as misdemeanors, depending on the nature of the crime, the individual involved and if it's in the best interest of justice. The bill passed the House, 63-27.

House Bill 2479 updates a law already on the books. It reduces the mandatory sentences for subsequent drug offenses. It passed the House, 76-15.

House Bill 2751 increases the amount for property damage, embezzlement and bogus checks to $1,000 before it's considered a felony. The previous amount was $500. It passed the House, 80-8.

House Bill 2753 broadens the use of drug courts. It passed the House unanimously.

"These measures address Oklahoma's prison population, which is among the highest in the nation, without jeopardizing public safety," said Gov. Mary Fallin. "With our state prisons filled to well over capacity, it is vital that we make some changes to our criminal justice system."

"These bills are the result of a lot of discussion and recommendations from mental health and drug abuse experts, prosecutors and judges, all of whom are on the front lines of criminal justice reform," said Peterson, R-Tulsa. "Our prisons are currently at more than 123 percent capacity, and they are getting more crowded every day because of sentencing laws that either prohibit prosecutors and judges from using discretion or exclude many defendants from alternative sentencing programs that would be more beneficial – both for the defendants and for society – than simply sending them to prison."

The bills now head to the Senate.

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