Tulsa Attorney BlogState Question 805: What’s It About? (Part 1)

Oklahoma Locks up 655 People for Every 100,000

Video Transcribed:  Oklahoma State question 805, what is it all about? I’m Oklahoma attorney James Wirth and I’m doing a series of 7 videos discussing relevant topics to State question 805 that may help you determine which way you want to vote. So as far as the first video, it is about telling us what the State question is about, what is it trying to do?

The second video is why is it listed as a constitutional amendment, why go that route? In the third video, what is sentence enhancement in Oklahoma as it’s relevant to State question 805? The fourth video is what is a violent crime, how are those defined?

The fifth question is going to be covered in video five, which is, is it retroactive? Does it have a retroactive application? Sixth video, the victims of crime in these cases? And the seventh video, how it affects the range of punishment for certain specific crimes that have been listed as being concerning in its application?

All right, so we’re in the first video here, so we’re talking about what is it about? And 805 is about criminal justice reform and trying to reduce prison populations. Because if we look and research it we can see, I mean, just go to Wikipedia and you can find out the rate of incarceration per capita in the United States is listed number one for locking our people up in the world.

Right here shows that we lock up 655 people for every 100,000, which makes us the number one nation in the world. We go down, even China has got allegations regarding human rights violations and other concerns are actually nowhere near us. We lock up a total of 2.1 million people and even though China has a population of roughly three to four times that of the U.S. they lock up less than that, at 1.7 million.

So per capita, they’re locking up 120 people per 100,000, whereas we are about 6 times that amount. Now let’s talk about the State. The State of Oklahoma then, where do we rank nationally? Well, we rank number one in the nation.

So we lock up almost 1 in 100 or almost 1,000 out of 100,000 people, which is more than 50% more than the national average is what we’re locking up in Oklahoma. So for Oklahoman’s and incarceration, we are the number one State and the number one nation and that’s costly.

Estimates as recently as 2015 estimated it costs about $16,500 per year to incarcerated individuals. So if we’re talking about locking somebody up for 10 years, we have to consider that $165,000 of taxpayer money is going to go for that purpose. So are we getting the value out of that investment?

A lot of people think we’re not, and that’s why they’re trying to reduce prison overcrowding and prison population in general so that more people can be out, hopefully being productive members of society and holding jobs while they’re creating value rather than just using up taxpayer value by being locked up for around $16,500 per year, so that’s the goal. Now, how does it go about trying to pursue that goal of reducing the prison population?

And it does it by getting rid of sentence enhancement. So in Oklahoma, each crime has a specific range of punishment, and then if you have prior felony convictions, those convictions can be used to enhance the punishment. So the DA can allege in what we call a second page prior criminal convictions and that increases the range of punishment depending on the crime and the number of prior convictions, it can vary.

I’m going to discuss that more particularly in video seven, but what this says is that for non-violent offenses, if you’re convicted, prior convictions can not be used to change the range of punishment. And that can reduce the prison population because there’s a lot of mandatory minimums that come into play when you start using sentence enhancement. So what’s it about?

Well, it’s about trying to reduce the prison population by getting rid of sentence enhancements that change the sentencing range upward for people that have prior felony convictions, who are convicted of a nonviolent felony, it is not applicable to violent felonies at all.

So we’ll move on to video two now, but if you’ve got any questions about this, you can always talk to an attorney about your circumstances, whether you are a victim of a crime, or whether you are a potential defendant or family member of the defendant. If you want to know how it affects you, you can contact my office by going to makelaweasy.com.

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