Justice reform is on the table in Oklahoma, and state lawmakers want to know what steps they can take.
In an interim study this week, former senior vice president at Koch Industries Mark Holden, now with Americans for Prosperity, told them taking a look at the state’s criminal code would be a good start. That’s a move Gov. Kevin Stitt has said he wants to make.
Holden said an overhaul not only whittles down the number of reasons people can end up in prison, but it also narrows the job of police.
"You know, any time anything happens, we’ve got law enforcement. There are truancy officers, they’re dealing with drug issues for people who have overdosed or whether it’s mental health issues. I mean, all these different things that they didn’t sign up for and they don’t want to do, but we’re making them do," Holden said.
Holden also told Oklahoma lawmakers week they need to tackle what he calls the "collateral consequences" of incarceration people experience after they’re released from prison.
"And there’s a reason for this. Sometimes they can’t get housing, and if you can’t get housing, that’s a big deal, right? And you can’t get a job, and you can’t get loans, you don’t have an education, you don’t have a way to get a license or anything else. Well, we know you’re going to end up back in prison, and that seems like not a great way to go," Holden said.
Holden said supporting prison education programs and eliminating vocational license bans on people with criminal records where appropriate would help.
Civil asset forfeiture, which allows police to seize and keep someone’s property, is another area in need of change.
"If you’re taking people’s stuff without an arrest, without a conviction, without even an indictment, that’s unconstitutional, and we’re better than that," Holden said.
Oklahoma gets a D-minus from the Institute for Justice on its civil asset forfeiture laws.