Two state questions that would make changes in Oklahoma’s criminal justice system will be the topic of an Oklahoma Watch-Out public forum on Oct. 18 in Oklahoma City.
The Oklahoma Watch forum on State Questions 780 and 781 will feature Kris Steele, former House speaker and executive director of The Education and Employment Ministry (TEEM), and Greg Mashburn, district attorney representing Cleveland, Garvin, and McClain counties.
The event will be from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. at Kamp’s 1910 Café, located at 10 N.E. 10th Street in Oklahoma City. Oklahoma Watch Executive Editor David Fritze will moderate the discussion. Those interested in attending are encouraged to register online and come with questions.
SQ 780 proposes to reclassify basic drug possession and property crimes under $1,000 as misdemeanors instead of felonies. SQ 781 would use any savings from SQ 780 to fund rehabilitative programs, such as mental health and substance abuse treatment efforts.
Proponents say the measures will help in reducing Oklahoma’s high incarceration rates that have left prisons overcrowded. Opponents are concerned that the proposals would bring too much leniency to drug possession laws, especially possession of drugs such as methamphetamine and heroin.
This forum is a part of a series on Nov. 8 state questions, made possible by a grant from the Kirkpatrick Foundation.
About the Panelists
Greg Mashburn began his third term as district attorney for District 21 in January 2015. He serves on the board and executive committee of the Oklahoma District Attorneys Council. On Jan. 20, 2015, Gov. Mary Fallin appointed him to the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs Control Commission.
Since taking over the DA’s office in January 2007, Mashburn has reorganized the office to manage caseloads and care for victims in the criminal justice system more effectively and efficiently. In 2008, Mashburn was named outstanding district attorney in Oklahoma after one year in office.
Mashburn attended Harding University in Arkansas on a football scholarship, graduating in 1995. He earned his juris doctorate from the University of Oklahoma College of Law in 1998. Mashburn spent a decade prosecuting criminals as an assistant district attorney in Oklahoma County, becoming a division chief within six years.
Kris Steele is executive director of TEEM, a nonprofit dedicated to breaking the cycle of poverty and incarceration in Oklahoma. TEEM offers educational opportunities, character development courses, job training and employment placement assistance to individuals reentering the community.
Steele also serves as the chair of Oklahomans for Criminal Justice Reform, a coalition of community groups, business leaders, health professionals and faith leaders dedicated to advancing effective approaches to public safety by increasing access to treatment and programs addressing root causes of crime.
Steele earned a bachelor’s degree in religion from Oklahoma Baptist University and a master’s degree in education from East Central University. Before joining TEEM, he served as state representative from 2000 to 2012 and was speaker of the Oklahoma House of Representatives for the 53rd Legislature. During his tenure in office, he led a number of reforms in the areas of health care, human services and criminal justice.