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Oklahoma Senate Sends Governor Bill to Make SQ780 Retroactive

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Bail reform failed in the Oklahoma legislature this week, but another major criminal justice reform initiative is on its way to the governor.

The Senate passed House Bill 1269 on a 34–11 vote. It will extend the reclassification of several drug and property crimes from felonies to misdemeanors to people convicted before voters passed State Question 780 in 2016.

"This bill ensures that people do not sit in jail for a crime that no longer carries a jail sentence," said Sen. Stephanie Bice.

Lawmakers were split earlier in the session over how to resentence people in prison crimes since reduced to misdemeanors. Bice said HB1269 will not put a strain on courts and district attorneys.

"This particular version would allow for an individual who is currently serving in [Department of Corrections] custody for a felony conviction of a 780 crime to be put on a single docket and submitted to the Pardon and Parole Board," Bice said.

If the bill is signed into law, the Department of Corrections must send the board a list of eligible inmates within 30 days of its effective date. Some estimate up to 1,100 Oklahomans in prison could benefit from the measure.

The bill also offers a way for those with felony convictions that are now misdemeanors to have their records cleaned up.

"They can apply for an expungement of that simple possession felony or 780 crime through this process 30 days after completing their sentence," Bice said.

Those felony convictions can make it difficult for people to do things like find jobs or rent an apartment, making it more likely they end up back in prison.