The state of Oklahoma, back in 2016, had a vote on a heated ballot initiative, which would reclassify drug possession and minor thefts as misdemeanors. The ballot was then passed, with the initiative being approved. As a result, the drug-crime policing of the Oklahoma state has lost its metaphorical stick.
The idea behind the change was to divert nonviolent drug users to the a USA rehab facility that can help them deal with their issue. Reports say that the voters was interested with the initiative due to rising prison costs, with Oklahama’s rate of incarceration being the second highest in the US, second only to Louisiana.
The reform was passed, in spite of the opposition of the state’s public prosecutors and law-enforcement agencies, and was outright rejected in many Oklahama rural counties. This reform followed the changes in other states, which include Louisiana itself, who are all looking for ways to avoid and outright end mass incarceration, in opposition to the Trump administration’s urging to federal prosecutors to further utilize incarceration as a punishment.
Adam Gelb, one of The Pew Charitable Trusts’ criminal-justice experts, says that it was logical for states to reform their drug sentencing due to data showing no definitive proof that shows that punitive laws actually curb abuse. He says that lock up drug offenders increases punishment, but not public health and safety, according to the numbers.
Oklahoma is still having debates regarding the efficiency of the reforms, with some, like Det. Capt. Adam Flowers of Canadian Country, saying that it has taken away the teeth of drug-arrests. Some of the opposition is saying that part of the problem is that there is no incentive for drug abusers to go to visit the closest USA rehab facility and get treatment.
The reformers, to counter, say that treatment is an option, it always has been. Gelb says that people with addictions are bad with long-term considerations, with the time spent in jail measuring the same to them. Some people from the inside say that it’s a better alternative due to how easy it is to get drugs behind bars.