The end of the 2022 legislative session is in sight.
Lawmakers are scheduled to wrap up business and adjourn for the summer on May 27. That’s 32 days from today, if you’re interested in counting down.
A series of deadlines, committee hearings and chamber votes have narrowed down which proposals do and don’t have a shot at becoming law.
April 14 was the final day for bills to advance past committee in the opposite chamber. Two notable criminal justice bills stalled and won’t be eligible for consideration until next year:
- Senate Bill 1646: Would have created a felony classification system with reduced sentencing ranges for some nonviolent offenses. I analyzed its potential impact in an explainer article published earlier this month.
- House Bill 3294: Would have directed the state to follow the terms of State Question 781 and allocate funds saved from imprisoning fewer people to local diversion and mental health programs. Check out my April 6 newsletter for a more detailed explanation of the proposal.
Bills aimed at reducing court fines and fees and making employment more accessible to people with involvement in the justice system have gained the most traction this session. Examples include:
- House Bill 3205: Lowers probation, program and legal counsel fees in juvenile cases.
- House Bill 3316: Authorizes the state to automatically expunge certain low-level criminal offenses. In an article published early last month, I examined the many barriers to expungement in Oklahoma.
- Senate Bill 1691: Specifies that a criminal conviction cannot be grounds to deny a person a state-issued occupational license, unless the offense substantially relates to the job duties or poses a reasonable public safety threat.
- Senate Bill 1532: Would authorize courts to waive outstanding court fines and fees if a person has made timely installment payments in at least 48 of 60 months.
A Mile In Another’s Shoes: Perry Lott is rebuilding his life after spending 31 years in prison for crimes he didn’t commit.
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What I’m Reading This Week
- Maintenance Plan for New Oklahoma County Jail Remains Unclear: A proposed $260 million bond to build a new Oklahoma County Jail contains no funding for ongoing maintenance of the facility. Some worry a new jail could deteriorate in a similar fashion to the current jail. [NonDoc]
- Failure to Protect: Oklahoma Woman Reflects Two Years After Pardon: Tondalao Hall was supposed to spend 30 years in prison for failing to protect her children from their father’s abuse. The abuser, Robert Braxton, was released on time served in jail and never spent a day in prison. Three years after Gov. Kevin Stitt commuted her sentence, sentencing guidelines for failure to protect haven’t changed. [News 9]
- Biden Issues First Pardons, Commutations of His Presidency: The president announced three pardons and commutations of 75 sentences of nonviolent drug offenders on Tuesday. [The Washington Post]
- Crime Stoppers of Houston Has a Tip: Vote Out These Judges: A historically nonpartisan nonprofit has been sharing politically charged messages targeting Democratic judges. An investigation by The New York Times and The Marshall Project found that the organization has become increasingly reliant on state grants backed by Republican Gov. Greg Abbott. [The Marshall Project]
Help Us Make a Difference
From the impact of COVID-19 behind bars to the effects of prison gerrymandering, my reporting focuses on how Oklahoma’s criminal justice system impacts people inside and outside of the system. It can take weeks or months for me to file public records requests, dig into documents and track down sources. As a nonprofit news organization, we rely on your financial support to do this time-consuming but important work. Help us make a difference.