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Video by Ilea Shutler.

The debate was intense at an Oklahoma Watch-Out forum on Tuesday about State Questions 780 and 781, which would make significant changes to Oklahoma’s criminal justice system in an effort to lower the state’s incarceration rates.

The forum featured 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 2016-2017 Oklahoma Watch-Out series is sponsored by:

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Oklahoma Watch hosts “Oklahoma Watch-Out” forums as part of its mission to encourage civil discussion of important public policy issues. The opinions expressed at our forums do not necessarily represent those of Oklahoma Watch or its funders or sponsors.

State Question 780 proposes to reclassify basic possession of any illegal drug from a misdemeanor to a felony, punishable by up to a year in jail and a fine of up to $1,000. It would also increase the threshold for some property crimes to be considered a felony from $500 to $1,000.

State Question 781 would require that any savings achieved by incarcerating fewer people for drug possession or nonviolent crimes — the intent of SQ 780 — be provided to counties for mental health and substance abuse treatment programs.

Oklahoma Voter Guide

A series of Q&As and forums on Nov. 8 state questions is made possible by a grant from the Kirkpatrick Foundation.

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