Over the past several years, Oklahoma has made a concerted effort to improve community safety and well-being by modernizing its criminal justice system. Led by Gov. Kevin Stitt, state legislators, and supportive community organizations, these improvements include reclassifying certain drug offenses and commuting sentences, appropriating funds to social services such as substance abuse and mental health treatment, removing barriers to reintegration (such as access to occupational licenses and state IDs), automatic expungement of certain criminal records, and allowing people on parole to earn credits towards decreasing the length of their supervision.
“I want to be top 10 in everything that we do,” Stitt told AV in 2022, “and so I’ve got a goal to be top 10 in lowest incarceration rates and top 10 in public safety. Today, we’ve got 5,000 fewer people incarcerated than we did when we took over. I’ve closed one private prison and two state prisons. We’ve saved the taxpayers tons of money by doing so. And right now, we are leading the nation in reducing recidivism, or, said another way, we have the least number of people who have been incarcerated going back into prison. We’re the best in the nation in helping people stay out of prison once they’ve been in. We still have a way to go, but we’ve made tremendous progress in three and a half years.”
This effort to modernize the state’s criminal justice system has also proven politically popular. In 2022, Stitt easily fended off “law and order” attacks on his criminal justice record in the Republican primary before defeating his Democratic opponent in the general election.
Now, new polling conducted by WPA Intelligence on behalf of Arnold Ventures and the Justice Action Network shows that Oklahomans remain supportive of improvements to the criminal justice system.
Notable results from the poll include:
- 71% of voters stated that they wanted to see more done on criminal justice reform in the state, while just 8% said that too much was being done already.
- 64% of voters felt safer or as safe as they did in 2019, prior to the implementation of some of the state’s major criminal justice reforms.
- Just 3% of voters wanted to prioritize the construction of more prisons, while 39% wanted to prioritize improving mental and behavioral health services within the justice system.
For more information, please see the press release here.
And the and topline poll results here.