Month: February 2016

Legislative Shenanigans – Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform Bill

CAF

Sitting in committee is a bill that would reform the current civil asset forfeiture policy in Oklahoma. Currently, your property and cash may be seized by law enforcement and kept even if you are never charged with a crime. You may fight to have your property and cash returned but it will cost you. Basically, your property is guilty until proven innocent but even then you will have to pay to get it back. This is obviously a very flawed policy so why would those in charge of protecting our rights refuse to support it?

Per Mark Morris: “Cops in Oklahoma are seizing and spending money taken from US citizens, often with no charges every being brought, to the tune of $18k per day over the past 15 years! It’s getting worse. What am I talking about? People traveling through our state with cash are being robbed at gun point by our police, who are then using it to pay off student loans and live rent free. That’s right.”

Anthony Sykes, the committee chairman, is refusing to hear the bill.  Why would he do that? How can a legislator unilaterally refuse to hear a bill? (Also a flawed policy)

Oklahoma asset forfeiture reform faces stiff opposition


OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) – An Oklahoma legislator who wants to restrict when police can seize cash and other assets from people they suspect of drug-trade involvement – even without a conviction – fears his colleagues won’t have a chance to take up his idea this session.

The bill by Sen. Kyle Loveless, R-Oklahoma City, has been referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee, but Loveless says efforts to reach chairman Sen. Anthony Sykes have gone unanswered. He’s turned to his constituents to help plead his case, asking them to call the Senate leadership to request that his bill be heard.

Sykes did not return requests for comment Thursday or Friday.

Read more

Institute for Justice fellow: Oklahoma has chance to lead with forfeiture bill


[When civil forfeiture pays the bills, police and prosecutors have an incentive to take as much property as possible. Since 2000, law enforcement agencies have collected almost $99 million in forfeiture proceeds. That incentive warps law enforcement priorities, diverting resources toward fat financial targets and away from pursuing justice. For that reason, a recent report from the Institute for Justice, “Policing for Profit,” assigned Oklahoma’s civil forfeiture laws a D-minus grade.]

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Committee Contacts – Reference: SB 1189


Chairman Anthony Sykes
405-521-5569
lewis@oksenate.gov

Vice Chairman Brian Crain
405-521-5620
crain@oksenate.gov

Corey Brooks
405-521-5522
brooks@oksenate.gov

Kay Floyd
405-521-5610
Floyd@oksenate.gov

AJ Griffin
405-521-5628
griffin@oksenate.gov

David Holt
405-521-5636
holt@oksenate.gov

John Sparks
405-521-5553
sparks@oksenate.gov

Rob Standridge
405-521-5535
standridge@oksenate.gov

Greg Treat
405-521-5632
treat@oksenate.gov

Roger Thompson
405-521-5588
Thompson@oksenate.gov

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The REAL Elephant in the Room

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I would like to address Fallin’s first point, “Oklahoma’s drug possession sentences haven’t deterred substance abuse”. Most people thrown in cages for using drugs are not necessarily “substance abusers”. This says people who are charged with a drug “crime” are abusers which is a fallacy. Substance users (or abusers) do not belong in prison. Substance use (or abuse) is not an issue for politicians much like someone with an alcohol or prescription narcotic addiction wouldn’t be. According to this statement Jaqie Angel Warrior and Austin’s Answer are criminals and substance abusers.

Her next statement, “These sentences tend to send some non-violent offenders into prison”. Incarcerating a person for a drug offense alone is a non-violent “offense”. There may be other, perhaps violent, crimes that this person may have committed, but the charge for drug use or even distribution is non-violent.

Her last statement, “live alongside violent offenders whose bad influences can make non-violent offenders worse”. This is almost a nonsensical statement. Incarcerating non violent “offenders” is a crime. Many people locked up for drug offenses aren’t merely “non-violent” they are peaceful people who are now subjected to violations by not only other inmates but the agents of the state charged to “care” for them.

While sentencing reforms are absolutely necessary the real elephant in the room is Oklahoma’s horrible Drug Policy. People are dehumanized for their personal choices and most often the only violence arriving from their choices is from the state via incarceration, guns pointed at them, homes invaded, children removed from loving homes and traumatized by doing so.

These are great talking points but let’s see some action. Lawmakers seem to be more concerned with frivolous things rather than addressing a real human rights violation that is Oklahoma Drug Policy.

The Drug War is good business for the state. It won’t loosen its grip easily or willingly. The CCA (Corrections Corporation of America) and GEO (formerly Wackenhut) have both engaged in state initiatives to increase sentences and create new crimes. The CCA sent a letter to 48 states offering to buy public prisons in exchange for a promise to keep them at 90% occupancy for 20 years. The prisons are for profit, yet still use tax dollars for funding and lease out captive labor to big business. With the private-public prison industry there is a contractual agreement to keep prisons at a certain capacity which of course is incentive to incarcerate people even for non-violent drug offenses.

The problem is not solved by enacting more laws, it is solved by protecting rights. Locking people up for non-violent drug offenses does not support liberty or freedom, it instead feeds the state, victimizes peaceful people in the form of taxation and incarceration, it keeps people out of the work force, and makes it much for difficult for them to attain a quality of life once released. Change will only occur with push back from those that are violated by these laws and that includes all of us. – Lisa Bowman

drugpolicyprob

 


 

“Oklahoma’s State of the State is now in the history books and we can see what is important to us. Mary Fallin acknowledged that our drug laws and penalties are not working and that the resulting prison load is hard on the budget. Not that this has inspired fresh thinking about individual liberty and personal responsibility, but she is looking for some changes in the sentencing structure. She would give more discretion to prosecutors to reduce charges away from a felony and reduce the sentencing requirements for those convicted. This requires us to accept that 15 years is an improvement over life without parole and think it is a good thing. First and second time offenders could get off without doing prison time but I wouldn’t hold my breath thinking it is going to happen very often.” Clinton Wiles