Vote “Yes” on SQ 780
November 1, 2016
Filed under Opinion
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On Nov. 8, voters will go to the polls for plenty of things, including the president, U.S. Senate, U.S. House and much more. Most people may not be aware of some of the ballot issues such as State Question 780.
State Question 780 is officially titled the “Oklahoma Reclassification of Some Drug and Property Crimes as Misdemeanors Initiative.” The question is officially on the ballot as an initiated state statute. If the measure is passed, it would go into effect July 1, 2017.
If the bill is passed, it will change the current laws that Oklahoma has regarding drug possession and some property crimes.
The state law of Oklahoma currently classifies possession of any illegal drugs as a felony, but the passage of State Question 780 would make it a misdemeanor, lessening the impact on non-violent offenders.
Some may question this, but keep in mind drug trafficking, selling and manufacturing would still be classified as a felony. As for property crimes, a theft or forgery of property is currently a felony at the $500 threshold, but state bill 780 passing would change that threshold to $1000.
The fact is, Oklahoma has an incarceration rate problem. Our state is currently number two in the country in overall incarceration rate, and first in the nation when it comes to the incarceration rate for women. This is a major problem that is hurting families, lives, state prisons and the taxpayer.
Studies from Oklahomans for Criminal Justice Reform show that 77 percent of Oklahomans personally know someone who has been sent to jail, prison or any other type of correctional facility.
We, as Oklahomans, need to look at this and realize we must make changes.
Criminalizing such non-violent actions with laws that infringe on basic civil liberties and hurt people for such long times should not be punished in such harsh ways.
Instead, the state should save the taxpayer money by investing in rehabilitative facilities and not punish these people with prison.
If passed, along with its companion bill SQ781, the money saved from the state prison system would be reallocated to counties all over the state to fund the rehabilitation of people currently serving time for drug and property related crimes, rather than keeping them locked up for a longer period of time in prisons.
The bottom line is, Oklahomans need to look at this as an opportunity to help fellow citizens who have done no harm to other citizens. Our prison capacity rate is at 119 percent, our incarceration is harmful to families and the system is just not working for our state and our taxpayer.
A “yes” vote on SQ780 and 781 is a vote for the betterment of our state, for individual freedom and for our tax dollars going towards the betterment of our citizens.