In the 3rd year of a massive & populist effort to reform how Oklahoma deals with criminal law; over 500 commutations occured this weekend. Over 400 of those affected are immediately going free. By the year's end, about 2000 will go home.
Their crimes are deemed non-violent and no longer regarded as felonies.
In 2016's general election, a citizen's petition garnered the support of the voters and gave a mandate to state govt. that nonviolent thefts of under $1000 is not a felony, and no more than 1 year in the county jail is appropriate. In addition, simple possession of CBD oil or other cannabis medicines is not a felony. Heck, it's not even illegal in many cases! Other drug possessions are also deemed a misdemeanor.
This is no less than a cultural shift of the people of Oklahoma. The govt. came kicking & screaming to a place where they must comply. But Oklahomans still regard violence as worthy of severe prison sentencing.
Oklahoma is not alone in this shift of view. the federal govt. is also releasing over 3000 inmates this week, in a similar justice reform initiative. It's a key part of President Trump's reform initiative to quit punishing us taxpayers and allow nonviolent populations to return to productive lives and state paying taxes again, instead of consuming the tax dollars.
With unemployment rates lower than they've been in half a century, our economic future is going to rely on more employed workers. Our industries are struggling to find able-bodied staff to operate production facilities.
More importantly, families are being restored and children are reunited with parents that some never ever knew. Will this be a challenge? Absolutely. Communities, especially faith communities; have a very important role to play. Assimilating these displaced adults is essential to our society. If we don't find a way to include them in a safe and functional way, the cycle will continue to consume them, and the families they were meant to be a part of.
And it's time our lawmakers start researching the centuries-old problem of criminal punishment. New technologies ought to help us save money by utilizing house-arrest with electronic monitoring. Parents would then be able to at least care for children at home, saving Oklahoman's many millions that have been spent on foster care. Voluntary options ought to be offered to felons, to join structured agricultural programs where they can pay off restitution & court fees at poultry farms, road maintenance, construction sites, or other partnerships with private commerce. The message is simple. "Be productive and contribute to society, rather than destructive and harming society."