Project Commutation

SQ 780 Retroactivity

Oklahomans agree: excessive sentences for drug crimes are unjust

In 2016, Oklahomans for Criminal Justice Reform led the effort to pass State Questions 780 and 781, which reclassified simple drug possession and low-level property crimes as a misdemeanor and reinvested taxpayer savings in alternatives and treatment. A majority of Oklahomans voted in support of these measures and though it was a historic step forward, thousands of Oklahomans remain in prison, serving long sentences simply because they were sentenced before SQ 780 took effect. We’re working to make this right with House Bill 1269.

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House Bill 1269 is the next step for progress

House Bill 1269 will make SQ 780 retroactive and provide hundreds of incarcerated Oklahomans the opportunity to return to their families and become contributing members of society. Our 2019 Commutation Campaign helped a handful of Oklahomans apply to reduce their excessive sentences to fit the current law. On Nov. 1, 2019, Governor Stitt and the Pardon and Parole Board will take up the largest commutation docket in a single day in the history of our nation.

Watch their journeys to commutation

Meet Kayla Jo Jeffries

“It would mean I’d get to be a mother to children again. It would mean a second chance. And I’d be so grateful for that chance.”

 

At just 23 years old, Kayla was sentenced to 20 years for simple drug possession and theft. In 2018, her sentence was commuted and she pursued her goal of becoming a cosmetologist.

Meet Felicia Witherspoon

“When I first heard my sentence, I was shocked, I was devastated. [Prison]’s not a place for anyone, really.”

Felicia, a mother of three, was convicted of simple drug possession in 2015 and subsequently sentenced to 20 years in prison. On the verge of giving up hope, she shifted her focus on bettering herself. Her sentence was commuted in 2018 and she was given a second chance.

Meet Juanita Peralta

“When I first heard my sentence, I really felt like my life was over. The worst part was knowing my kids were going to be without me.”

Juanita Peralta was serving a 15-year sentence for drug possession while her eldest daughter raised her five siblings. In 2018, her sentence was commuted and she’s now focused on returning to school to become a drug and alcohol counselor.

A challenging life after commutation

While commutation positively impacted the lives of Kayla, Felicia and Juanita, it also presented new challenges. With a previous felony on their record, commutation recipients face numerous obstacles reentering society. A felony record limits job and housing opportunities and without financial means, securing housing and reliable transportation becomes increasingly difficult. House Bill 1269 addresses these obstacles by allowing those with SQ 780 offenses on their records the opportunity to apply for expungement, which seals a commutation recipient’s court and arrest records and expands their economic opportunities.

Retroactivity in the News OR Resources (link to helpful articles on this issue)

 

Upcoming Events

Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board

Meeting Friday, Nov. 1 / 11:30 am Kate

Barnard Correctional Center 3300

Martin Luther King Avenue, OKC

 

Criminal Justice Panel Discussion: 780 One Year After

Thursday, Nov. 15 / 6:30 – 8:30 pm Centenary United Methodist Church

631 N. Denver, Tulsa