An initiative petition seeking to end the use of sentence enhancements for repeat, nonviolent offenses is eligible for Oklahoma’s November ballot.
State Question 805 cleared a 10-day period without being challenged. Supporters gathered around 260,000 signatures and had more than 248,000 counted, well in excess of the roughly 178,000 required.
Yes on 805 President Sarah Edwards said Oklahomans in prison for nonviolent offenses serve sentences 70% to 80% longer than prisoners in other states, and enhancements may be a driver of that disparity.
"In other states that use these sentence enhancements, it’s used generally around one out of five times, whereas in Oklahoma, it’s typically used four out of five times," Edwards said.
Despite reforms in the past few years, Oklahoma still has the second-highest incarceration rate in the U.S.
Edwards said ending nonviolent sentence enhancements would not only reduce the amount of time people spend in prison, but also free up money to address underlying issues.
"We’re spending over half a billion dollars a year on a system that’s not working when we could be utilizing millions — and possibly hundreds of millions — of dollars for education, for mental health treatment, job training," Edwards said.
A conservative think tank estimated State Question 805 could save Oklahoma up to $186 million over the next decade, but the Oklahoma Department of Corrections disputes that estimate, saying it is high and does not account for the agency's budget shortfall and maintenance needs.