Criminal law

The new criminal justice task force brings together “three branches of government working together,” State says.


Carmen Foreman Tulsa World

Oklahoma City — A task force created by Gov. Kevin State on Tuesday aims to find solutions to criminal justice reform by identifying strategies to reduce crime and recidivism while enhancing public safety.

Modern Operations Through Data and Evidence-Based Recovery Now, Modern, the Justice Task Force is a rare joint initiative in which the State Office, the Oklahoma Legislature, and state court officials will work together.

“Today, we are taking concrete steps toward a safer, smarter, and more efficient justice system in Oklahoma,” State said in a news release. “With all three branches of government working together, we are demonstrating to all four million Oklahoma residents the state’s commitment to promoting public safety while ensuring that our justice system operates fairly and efficiently.”

Over the next five months, the task force will review Oklahoma prison data and evaluate criminal justice reform strategies implemented in other states that have found more cost-effective solutions to protect public safety, according to the press release. The 11-member task force will present recommendations to the legislature before the start of the 2024 legislative session in February.

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The task force will also seek public input from across the state.

The task force’s launch comes after state officials requested support from the Institute for Crime and Justice and the Public Safety Performance Project as part of the federal government’s Reinvestment in Justice initiative. This allows state government officials seeking to overhaul their criminal justice systems to get help from the federal government, the Pew Charitable Trusts, and Arnold Ventures, a charity that prioritizes criminal justice reform.

House Speaker Charles McCall, an Atoka Republican, said the task force will help generate policy ideas by and for Oklahoma residents while ensuring safety and security remains a top priority for the state.

“After years of focusing on statewide efforts, we know the pressure our prisons and sheriffs are facing, and we know that reforms are needed,” McCall said in a statement. “By investing time and energy through the Task Force process, we can be smart about local criminal justice in ways that ensure we are right about crime, while at the same time providing help to those who need it.”

Staff members will include state legislators, the State Secretary of Public Safety, the head of the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services, the administrative director of the court system, a district attorney, a retired judge, a public defender, a local sheriff, a victim advocate and someone with knowledge of successful diversion programs.

A spokesperson for Attorney General Gentner Drummond said he is pleased that the task force will include law enforcement professionals such as county sheriffs and district attorneys.

Drummond’s spokesman, Phil Bacharach, said they “have a unique understanding of reforms in the interest of public safety.”

When State first ran for governor, he vowed to improve Oklahoma’s prisoner rate, which was then the worst in the country.

Early in his first term, State established re-entry reform, supervision, treatment, and opportunities – Repeatmilitary unit, which made recommendations for criminal justice reform on how the state could lower incarceration rates, reduce recidivism, and create more diversion programs. State has similar goals to the Modern Justice Task Force.

At times, wide-ranging criminal justice reforms have not been easy in the legislature. A multi-year attempt to rewrite the state’s criminal code has come to an end Stalled in the Legislative Council during the past two years.

But a bipartisan group of state lawmakers in 2019 passed legislation to Retroactive criminal justice reforms approved by voters under State Question 780Which reclassified some drug and property possession crimes from felonies to misdemeanours. This act led to a mass commutation by which hundreds of lower-ranking criminals were released from prison.

The task force will submit a report detailing its findings and recommendations by December 29.

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