State Laws in Oklahoma can be made or changed by elected legislators or by State Questions voted on by a majority of the people who vote during an election.
Oklahoma drug laws can be found in Title 63. All drugs are listed in five separate schedules. State Question 780 is asking Voters to change the drug laws in Title 63 to make the ILLEGAL POSSESSION of ALL drugs a misdemeanor, regardless of how many times a person is arrested for possession or where they are arrested at, including PARKS, SCHOOLS and CHURCHES. That would include Meth, heroin, LSD, PCP, ecstasy, Rohypnol – The Date Rape Drug – Banned by the FDA a branch of the Federal Government, and ALL other drugs listed in Title 63.
Different drugs have different weights that determine who is charged with trafficking drugs. Currently trafficking in meth would require 19 grams and trafficking marijuana would be 25 pounds. Under state question 780 a person with drugs can say it is all for “personal use” and how would a DA ever be able to prove otherwise.
SQ780 is backed by Kris Steele at the TEEM program, (training education employment ministry) and his other group called Oklahomans for Criminal Justice Reform, they have labeled the movement as the Oklahoma Smart Justice Reform act and promises to “Make Oklahoma’s Communities Safer and Stronger”.
TEEM acquired the Oklahoma County Community Sentencing Program in 2015, a previously run Oklahoma County program, staffed by county employees. Anyone charged with a misdemeanor or a felony who is sentenced to community sentencing and community service will most likely end up at the TEEM program controlled by Kris Steele. Most will be sentences will be for 12 to 36 months of supervised probation. We have been told that probation fees under the Oklahoma County program was $40 a month and now under the TEEM program participants are paying $40 a visit with the case worker determining how many times per month a client checks in, most twice a month and some check in weekly. Estimates are an average of $80 per month is being paid for probation supervision. Drug testing may be required and the cost is unclear. There also seems to be an increase in the hours of community service from 40 hours to 100 hours being performed at TEEM chosen locations.
Along with SQ780 is SQ781, the funding source for SQ780. Program creators will bill the state based on the amount they claim to save on incarceration cost. The Oklahoma Department of Corrections documents that the average yearly cost to incarcerate a defendant is $16,000 per year. Tax payers will still be footing the bill through the state. Defendants who fail to complete the probation, community service or pay court costs and fines can be have their probation revoked and they can still be sentenced to jail time. Misdemeanor jail time will be served in already overworked COUNTY JAILS at taxpayer expense.
In 2015 Oklahoma County filed 9171 felony cases and 3850 misdemeanor cases. It is estimated that one third of these felony cases would be misdemeanor offenses post 780. If estimates are correct over 3000 cases will be charged as misdemeanors, bringing the total of misdemeanor cases to 6850. Misdemeanor cases, when if convicted will carry the same sentence.
- $1,000 fine
- 12 months probation supervision by TEEM
- 100 hours of community service
6850 clients for TEEM paying an average of $80 per month equals $548,000 per
$80 X 6850 = $548,000 per month. $548,000 x 12 month = $6,576,000 per year, just in probation fees from clients
Those 3000 cases that could have been filed as felony cases will allow the program to bill the State of Oklahoma under state question 781 for the perceived savings to the state, just a reshuffle of the money really.
$16,000 yearly incarceration cost x 3000 clients = $48,000,000
$48,000,000 + $6,576,000 = $54,576,000. Just from Oklahoma County.
Other states have passed similar laws. California passed Prop 47, a bill labeled “The Safe Neighborhoods and Schools Act”. California has seen a dramatic rise in crime after celebrating historic lows in crime. Previously successful Drug court participation is almost nonexistent.