Voter approval Tuesday of State Question 762 provides momentum to continue improving Oklahoma’s criminal justice system, the authors of the measure said Wednesday.
Upon certification by the Oklahoma State Election Board, SQ 762 will remove the governor from the parole process for nonviolent offenders, a reform that numerous studies of Oklahoma’s corrections have recommended as a way to improve public safety by increasing efficiency in the parole system. Enactment of the measure will also end Oklahoma’s distinction as the only state requiring gubernatorial approval of all nonviolent parole recommendations.
“We’re thrilled the voters supported a smarter, tougher approach to crime and corrections in Oklahoma. It’s a big step forward in keeping us safer with a more efficient criminal justice system,” said House Speaker Kris Steele. “It was a strong signal that the public wants criminal justice policy based on facts and strategies proven to keep them safe.”
Steele, R-Shawnee, and Sen. Josh Brecheen, R-Coalgate, were the authors of Senate Joint Resolution 25, which placed SQ 762 on this year’s ballot.The resolution won more support in the Legislature than any other measure placing a state question on this year’s ballot, passing the Senate 39-1 and the House 86-8. SQ 762 won a 59.2 percent approval from voters, according to unofficial results from the Oklahoma State Election Board.
At the Pardon and Parole Board’s first meeting following official certification of the state question vote, recommendations the board makes on nonviolent offenders will be final. Previously, the board would make a recommendation that the governor had to review, which often led to costly, unneeded delays.
Steele and Brecheen said the Legislature next session should work to address any issues concerning Pardon and Parole Board safeguards and policies related to the new voter-approved parole policy.
“Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater should be commended for shining a light on some of the practices the board needs to improve. I know many improvements are already underway as a result of his findings and I expect more will be pursued in short order,” Steele said.
Brecheen said all stakeholders should continue to be involved going forward.
“I expect the Legislature will be receptive to working with the board, the governor, prosecutors and other stakeholders to address any issues that might require administrative or legislative action,” Brecheen said. “We’re very proud to have the policy in place and pledge to do whatever it takes to ensure its ultimate success.”