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State Question 805 leads to debate over public safety, prison reform

Yes on 805 to provide virtual meeting to discuss fiscal case for reform
Posted at 6:44 PM, Oct 28, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-29 09:08:59-04

TULSA, Okla. — One of the biggest choices on the Decision 2020 ballot for Oklahomans isn't over candidates.

State Question 805 asks voters to reduce possible sentences for nonviolent criminal offenders.

"I'm a strong believer in building communities and keeping families together," Sonya Pyles, a prison reform advocate, said.

"It's not safe for Oklahoma," Tulsa Co. District Attorney Steve Kunzweiler said.

Kunzweiler told 2 Works for You SQ 805 goes against basic common sense. It asks voters if nonviolent criminals should face enhanced sentencing from a prosecutor or judge.

Current state law allows prosecutors to seek a longer sentence for prior nonviolent convictions.

"If they continue to do that same type of conduct, you just don't do the same exact type of discipline," Kunzweiler said. "You have to have a little bit more of a leverage on them."

Pyles said she was convicted of more than five drug possession and petty larceny charges. The mother and grandmother said she stared down 20 years in prison.

"I was going to face the maximum amount of time," Pyles said.

Pyles served time in a prison diversion program after her latest arrest in 2012. She credits the program for curing her drug addiction. Pyles' past crimes are not the only nonviolent ones included in the state question.

Some domestic abuse charges are considered nonviolent crimes under 805.

READ MORE: State Question 805 potential impact on domestic violence in Oklahoma

“Most people would say, ‘Well that’s a violent crime,’ but it won’t be treated as a violent crime and so these folks who may have multiple prior felonies are going to be treated as first time offenders," Kunzweiler said.

If 805 passes on Nov. 3, people in prison for nonviolent crimes can appeal their enhanced sentences.

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