Noah noted last week that unrest in America’s cities shouldn’t discourage conservatives from examining and reforming the criminal justice system where necessary and helpful. We are dedicated to the proposition that the power of the state has a tendency to become clumsy, corrupt, and damaging to the American people, if not held in check, and particularly when backed by entrenched union interests. That proposition shouldn’t be pushed aside when talking about the criminal justice system— the people who are literally empowered to imprison and kill you—no matter how odd one’s political bedfellows on the subject might seem. Sober assessment and incremental reform of various parts of the criminal justice system are not incompatible with showing respect for those in law enforcement who do a great job.
In Oklahoma, rising GOP star Gov. Mary Fallin and the state’s Republican legislature, took an opportunity to push mandator minimum sentencing reform across the goal line. Fallin signed a law Tuesday giving judges more sentencing discretion on a subsection of offenses formerly subject to mandatory minimums. She touted the law as a way to safely reduce the state’s very high prison population along with the state’s bills while giving more folks a chance to reintegrate into society or get treatment they need:
“Violent criminals will continue to be incarcerated, but the fact is that one in 11 Oklahomans serve time in prison at some point in their lives,” Fallin said.
“Many of our current inmates are nonviolent offenders with drug abuse and alcohol problems; others have mental health issues.
“For some of these offenders, long sentences in state prisons increase the likelihood of escalated criminal behavior.”
Freed from having to impose a mandatory sentence, a judge in some cases could choose to divert the offender to a program to deal with underlying mental health or drug abuse issues. Judges who depart from minimum mandatory sentencing are to file a report with the district court clerk’s office for an annual public report.
Under the bill, judges would not be able to apply their discretion for violent crimes, sex crimes that would require offender registration, repeat crimes, or for crimes in which the defendant was a “leader of others in a continuing criminal enterprise.”
But that’s not the only criminal justice reform recently passed in Oklahoma. At the end of April the governor signed into law a bill that altered the state’s occupational licensing rules to assist former offenders. Alas, HB 2168 doesn’t eliminate occupational licensing in fields like architecture, cosmetology, surveying, athletic training, and several others. What it does do is allow the state to still license people in these fields who had been convicted of crimes, as long as said crimes are not connected to the fields in which they work. That’s still a significant improvement.
Another counterintuitive source of criminal justice reform this month, for liberals who know nothing about the Kochs except what Democrat attack ads tell them, was Koch Industries:
WICHITA — Koch Industries, one of the nation’s largest private companies, has removed questions about prior criminal convictions from its job applications, becoming the latest corporation to join a burgeoning movement trying to make it easier for ex-offenders to find work.
Koch Industries, which employs 60,000 workers in the United States, dropped the questions last month, company officials said. More than half its U.S. jobs are in manufacturing.
The company’s CEO, Charles Koch, a billionaire known for his support of Republican candidates and libertarian causes, has made overhauling the criminal-justice system a priority. Mark Holden, Koch’s general counsel and senior vice president, said it made common sense for the company to take this step.
Hillary Clinton: Way behind the Kochs on issues that matter to minority voters. I do enjoy a little stereotype busting for a good cause.