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Oklahoma Criminal Justice Reform Falls Short of Expectations

With an opportunity to overhaul the Oklahoma criminal justice system this year, one would think that Oklahoma lawmakers would do so by making the system less costly, more effective and more likely to improve public safety. Unfortunately, the new bill set to take effect on November 1, 2012 falls short of these expectations, and could …

With an opportunity to overhaul the Oklahoma criminal justice system this year, one would think that Oklahoma lawmakers would do so by making the system less costly, more effective and more likely to improve public safety. Unfortunately, the new bill set to take effect on November 1, 2012 falls short of these expectations, and could ultimately have a negative impact on Oklahoma prisoners, state incarceration rates and the overcrowding crisis threatening prisons throughout Oklahoma. If you have been charged with a crime in Oklahoma, contact our experienced criminal defense attorneys at Oklahoma Legal Center today. House Bill 3052, recently signed into law by Governor Mary Fallin, could significantly affect your future freedoms. With the help of the criminal defense team at Oklahoma Legal Center, you can protect your legal rights and learn more about how this new legislation could impact you.

Effect of New Oklahoma Law on Offenders and Prisoners

Georgia Governor Nathan Deal signed a bill into law this week that expands drug courts, creates less severe penalties for drug crimes, and introduces alternatives to incarceration for non-violent, low-level offenses. The new legislation also promises to save taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars over the next five years by decreasing the prison population in the state. Oklahoma, on the other hand, took a far different approach to criminal justice reform, and the resulting effect on taxpayers and those convicted of Oklahoma crimes is sure to disappoint. First and foremost, the new bill removes the authority of judges to shorten a prisoner’s sentence, placing it instead, directly in the hands of prosecutors. And while the bill increases the time period during which prisoners can ask for shortened sentences, giving prosecutors the power to make this decision all but cancels out that reform. As a result, prisoners who could be safely monitored outside of a prison cell will likely end up serving unnecessarily long sentences.

Non-Violent OK Offenders Subjected to Harsh Punishments

The new Oklahoma law also establishes intermediary revocation facilities for non-violent offenders who violate technical conditions of parole or probation. Under the new legislation, missing a meeting with a parole officer will now be punishable by up to six months of internment in a facility that is either much like a jail or actually is a jail. After all, the Department of Corrections plans to use correctional centers, halfway houses and existing state prisons as the intermediary revocation facilities. So, instead of employing alternatives to incarceration to address technical violations, offenders will likely end up right back in confinement. In addition to serious issues posed by what the new bill does address though, it’s what the law doesn’t address that raises the most eyebrows. For example, the original version of the legislation would have altered the Oklahoma law that requires prisoners to serve 85% of their sentences, which has contributed to Oklahoma having the third-highest incarceration rate of any U.S. state. Unfortunately, this component was ultimately omitted from the bill.

Contact Our Criminal Defense Attorneys for Legal Help

Thanks to the terms of Oklahoma’s criminal justice reform, the criminal justice system will continue to run under laws that subject non-violent offenders to long prison sentences, while failing to recognize the potential benefits of effective treatment and diversion programs. If you have been arrested for an Oklahoma offense, contact our criminal defense lawyers at Oklahoma Legal Center as soon as possible. Taking this new Oklahoma law into consideration, it is now more important than ever before to ensure that your legal rights are protected by a qualified criminal defense attorney when facing criminal charges in Oklahoma. With the expertise and years of proven success our team of criminal defense attorneys at Oklahoma Legal Center can build a strong defense in your case and work to have your Oklahoma charges reduced or dismissed altogether.

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