Criminal justice reform bill targeting low-level property offenses passes Oklahoma House

The Oklahoma House of Representatives. (KOKH/Anthony West)

A criminal justice reform bill made it's way through the Oklahoma House of Representatives Tuesday.

HB 2281, by State Rep. Terry O'Donnell, looks to change penalties for 21 low-level property offenses including larceny, forgery and "paper crimes'. O'Donnell says the bill will help lower the state's female incarceration rate, which is the highest in the nation. The bill passed the House Feb. 6 with a vote of 67-17. It now goes to the Senate for consideration.

“Many women in our prison system have been convicted of low-level, non-violent crimes like larceny, forgery and writing bad checks,” O’Donnell “In fact, convictions for those crimes are where we are seeing some of the greatest growth in our corrections system. This is a prime example of an area where we can reform our system, reduce our prison population, rehabilitate offenders and keep families together.”

The bill creates a tiered penalty structure for offenses based on value:

  • For crimes totaling $1,000 or less, the penalty would be up to one year of incarceration.
  • For crimes totaling $1,000 to $2,500, the penalty would be up to two years of incarceration.
  • For crimes totaling $2,500 to $15,000, the penalty would be up to five years of incarceration.
  • For crimes exceeding $15,000, the penalty would be up to eight years of incarceration.

Repeat offenders and organized retail theft will lead to sentence enhancements under the bill.

Chairman of Oklahomans for Criminal Justice Reform Kris Steele said there is still work to be done.

“This initial movement is encouraging but big impact bills are still out there and those have to pass, without being watered down, to stop skyrocketing prison growth," Steele said.

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