Criminal justice reform forum

Criminal justice reform forum

LAWTON, OK (KSWO) - A campaign to make a significant change to Oklahoma's criminal justice system made its way to Lawton Thursday night.

A group called Oklahomans for Criminal Justice Reform, led by former Speaker of the House Kris Steele, wants to reclassify many low-level, non-violent crimes, such as drug possession, from felonies to misdemeanors.

The decision will be made by voters in November. 

Steele says with state prisons at 120 percent capacity, it is past time for a new approach to punishment and sentencing.

"What we have to do is rethink how we deal with low-level offenses, and it makes sense, and it's more cost-effective and efficient to address the root cause behind the behavior, like addiction and mental illness, with treatment rather than incarceration," Steele said.

Steele said Oklahoma spends approximately $15,000 per year to house an inmate in state prison.  He said putting a low-level offender in treatment would cost about $6,000 a year. 

The proposal is State Question 780 on the November ballot.