On Monday, November 4, 2019, a number of Oklahoma families were greeted with good news. 462 non-violent prisoners had their sentences commuted and were released from prisons all across the state. Sixty-five more will be released once their detainers are removed. It was the largest commutation in U.S. history, and more are expected to happen.
Prison Reform Legislation
Republican-controlled Oklahoma has been known as having the highest incarceration rate in the U.S., but state lawmakers have been listening to their constituents and passing legislation to make prison reform a priority. State Question 780, which reclassified certain nonviolent drug and theft charges from felonies to misdemeanors, had been approved by 58% of Oklahoma voters in 2016. In May 2019, Oklahoma lawmakers passed HB 1269, which made State Question 780 retroactive and led to Monday's commutation.
When HB 1269 went into effect on November 1, 2019, 814 Oklahoma prisoners applied for commutation consideration. The 462 prisoners that were released are just a fraction of the 26,334 who make up the state's prison population, but it is a good step in the right direction.
Commuting these sentences will help reduce overcrowding in Oklahoma prisons and offer offenders a second chance. Governor Kevin Still told the inmates, “Now is the first day of your life.” It is estimated that if these prisoners had served their full sentence, it would have cost the state $11.9 million.
More Prison Reform Efforts
The Oklahoma Department of Corrections (DOC) is also helping with criminal justice reform. Ahead of November's commutation, the Oklahoma DOC held transition fairs at 28 incarceration facilities across the state. The transition fairs were designed to connect inmates with support services they might need once they are released. The organizations involved in the transition fairs will help former inmates with housing, transportation, health care, mental health care, and employment.
Washington Misdemeanors vs. Felonies
When Oklahoma voters passed State Question 780, it changed possessing a small amount of drugs from a felony to a misdemeanor, and it increased the threshold for property theft from $500 to $1,000 to be a felony.
In Washington, petty theft or theft in the third degree is classified as a gross misdemeanor and involves property theft of a value under $750. Second-degree theft becomes a felony when it is the theft of property valued between $750 and $5,000.
Defense Attorney Steve Karimi
If you have been charged with property theft in the state of Washington, you need a strong, credible defense. The Law Offices of Steve Karimi will examine your case and mount the defense you need to stay out of prison. Call them today at 206-621-8777 or fill out a contact form to get started a confidential and free consultation.