OKLAHOMA CITY — A controversial state question that would reform the state’s criminal justice system has qualified for November’s general election ballot, supporters say.

The Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that State Question 805 qualifies for the Nov. 3 ballot because supporters gathered enough signatures. Also, the initiative petition didn’t face any challenges within the prescribed window.

Supporters said the measure ends the use of repeat sentencing penalties for nonviolent offenses. The enhanced penalties are currently used to increase prison sentences for offenders who have prior convictions. Eliminating the enhancements for nonviolent offenders will save taxpayers up to $186 million over the next decade, supporters said.

“Our state is wasting money doling out sentences for nonviolent offenses that are out of proportion to the crimes,” said Sarah Edwards, president of Yes on 805. “Data overwhelmingly shows that resources such as mental health and substance abuse treatment, education and job training are better investments to correct the underlying issue which led to the offense and end the cycle of repeat offenses.”

Critics, including district attorneys, though have said Oklahomans need to consider the public safety consequences of passing State Question 805.

They note that some offenses — like hate crimes — are not classified as violent offenses, and the state already has made significant strides in reducing its incarceration rate.

Janelle Stecklein covers the Oklahoma Statehouse for CNHI’s newspapers and websites. Reach her at jstecklein@cnhi.com.

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