Tulsa lawmaker passes bill aimed to lower county jail populations
Nichols' bill will give police greater discretion in arrests for low-level warrants
A Tulsa lawmaker passed a bill that expands Oklahoma police officers' discretion when making arrests in hopes of lowering county jail numbers.
Authored by Rep. Monroe Nichols, House Bill 2041 amends state law to allow police to issue verbal or written warnings to people with misdemeanor warrants instead of being required to take them to jail. Nichols explained that officers may still arrest them, but that they now may use discretion in these situations.
While Nichols said he and his co-authors didn't run the numbers on how much of an impact the bill could have, he said he sees the new law lowering jail populations in Oklahoma as soon as it takes effect in November.
Nichols said his bill was partially inspired by a man who was arrested for a misdemeanor warrant and died in the Oklahoma County Jail. He also said he knows two people who were put in jail on misdemeanor warrants around Thanksgiving.
"Both spent a couple weeks in jail, missed a portion of the holidays, weren't able to work to do things for their kids and their family. And for me, you know, just thinking, it's like, 'Does it make sense for us to continue to increase the jail population with folks who shouldn't be there?'" Nichols said.
Nichols, a Democrat, authored the bill with House majority leader John Echols and Senate Pro Tem Greg Treat, who are Republicans.
"This doesn't necessarily impact the prison numbers, but it certainly impacts the jail number, and I think that's something that we all on a bipartisan — there's broad bipartisan agreement that that's something we should be doing," Nichols said, also alluding to Gov. Kevin Stitt, who signed the bill into law.
Stitt signed House Bill 2041 even though Treat is the bill’s Senate author. Stitt has vetoed multiple pieces of legislation in a standoff with Treat over proposed education funding plans.
Nichols said the fact that Stitt signed the bill speaks to the strength of his legislation, and the bipartisan agreement on what the bill aims to accomplish.
Stitt spokesperson Carly Atchison did not immediately respond to request for comment about why the governor chose to sign a bill co-authored by Treat.