Who needs George Soros when you have Republicans in Oklahoma enacting his number one agenda item – de-incarceration? In case you think the stupidity of downgrading crimes and increasing prison release, and the inevitable crime wave that follows, is limited to San Francisco, think again. Oklahoma is a state where no Democrat presidential candidate has carried a single county since 2000, but when it comes to crime, Oklahoma Republicans might as well be San Francisco Democrats.
Oklahoma Republicans adopt the drug and theft culture of San Francisco
By now, most Americans are familiar with California’s Prop 47 and how the downgrading of drug and theft crimes led to a rise in drugs and theft and has saddled San Francisco with a culture of homelessness and shoplifting. “Sure glad we live in a nice red area, far away from San Francisco values” is what many Americans living in the heartland think upon seeing the endless negative headlines on San Francisco. The problem is that, thanks to a perfidious Republican Party, those San Francisco values have permeated every state in the union, particularly Oklahoma.
The Koch-funded “conservative” organizations have convinced Oklahoma Republicans to embark on a one-sided mission of prison release rather than stemming the tide of growing crime. They have made them feel guilty about having the highest incarceration rate of any state. Yet rather than identifying case-by-case individuals for release, the state’s politicians successfully passed State Question 780, which downgraded drug and theft crimes across the board. They followed up with it last year by making those changes retroactive. This led to the single largest prison release in one day in our nation’s history, when 462 felons walked out the door on November 4.
“This marks an important milestone of Oklahomans wanting to focus the state’s efforts on helping those with nonviolent offenses achieve better outcomes in life,” said a beaming Gov. Kevin Stitt upon their release. “The historic commutation of individuals in Oklahoma’s prisons is only possible because our state agencies, elected officials, and partnering organizations put aside politics and worked together to move the needle.”
Yet there’s one thing elitist politicians overlook in the criminal justice discussion: crime and its impact on the rest of society. Everything for them is a zero-sum game of sympathy for the convicts. What they don’t realize is that, fundamentally, we are not locking up people for minor crimes, and even those locked up for so-called minor crimes are usually not incarcerated for that long – and it’s usually because they had a longer rap sheet of violent crime and violated their parole with theft, drugs, or driving offenses.
Moreover, as we’ve seen in San Francisco, when you decriminalize even low-level offenses, it leads to chaos for property owners, businesses, and public order. Indeed, other people exist in the world who have rights and a stake in public policy aside from criminals.
Gov. Kevin Stitt certainly moved the needle, all right, towards San Francisco. Drugs, theft, and homelessness, brought to you by jailbreak. Last week, the Oklahoma County Sheriff’s Office announced a new task force to combat the growing burglary trend and placed the blame squarely on the new laws. “Since the threshold of certain crimes changed some felonies to misdemeanors back in 2017 we have seen a steady increase of thefts in Oklahoma County,” wrote the sheriff’s office in a Facebook post on November 13.
According to the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigations, larceny crimes increased in Oklahoma County, by far the most populous and urban county in the state, by more than 7 percent from 2017 to 2018. The statewide problems with retail theft continue to rise. Mark Meyers, spokesman for the sheriff’s office, observed that “it’s basically just a free for all right now through portions of Oklahoma County” and that they are finding inmates bragging about how they communicate with networks of thieves. “They understand the law and even take calculators with them to make sure they are stealing less than $1,000,” said Meyers.
Then, of course, homelessness comes along with the breakdown of public order and decriminalization of crimes. Jason Hicks, the president of the Oklahoma District Attorneys Association, warned that the homeless population is “exploding” in some cities precisely because the recent leniencies are enticing them to return. “The comments that they’re getting back is, ‘We’re moving into Oklahoma because we know that we’re not going to get into any trouble and we can do our drugs and do it all day long and there’s no consequences for that issue,’” Hicks said at a recent state House Judiciary Committee hearing.
Drugs, theft, homelessness … this is exactly what is happening in San Francisco. Good job, Republicans.
The big lie of over-incarceration and its dangerous consequences
Violent crime dropped almost every year after 1994, but it began to rise in 2015 and has increased every year since then, according to the FBI’s Uniform Crime Report. Violent crime statewide is now up 12.3 percent since the low point of 2014. Aggravated assaults rose by 17.7 percent over the same period of time. In 2016, the murder rate rose 35 percent to levels not seen on a consistent basis since the 1990s. And while most property crimes still declined, at least until the latest round of jailbreak, vehicle theft has increased by 24 percent.
The numbers for Tulsa are even starker. The increase in crime from 2014 to 2018 is as follows:
Aggravated assault: 36%
Motor-vehicle theft: 38%
The simple truth is that most people are in prison for very good reason, and many others who should be in prison escape justice. If you let them back on the streets, crime will go up. Most people aren’t in state prison for drugs anyway. According to a report by Rafael Mangual of the Manhattan Institute, “60% of state prisoners are serving time for murder, rape, assault, robbery, or burglary.” Only a small percentage of state prisoners serve time for drugs, and almost all of them are in for drug trafficking, are repeat offenders, and serve less than two years.
But even the few who are sentenced for drug crimes, often they have either pled down from more serious crimes or go on to commit more violent crimes if they remain on the streets. The average murder suspect in Baltimore in 2017, according to city police data, had nine prior arrests, and 70 percent had prior arrests for drugs. According to a survey of 400,000 released state prisoners, more than 75 percent of those who were released after serving time for drug charges were subsequently re-arrested for a non-drug crime.
This explains why the obsession with reducing the prison population in recent years has led to an increase in violent crime. But drugs and theft are not very pleasant for communities either. Now that they have been downgraded, there is more of it.
According to Jason Hicks, many criminals are barely serving time as it is. “A five-year sentence or even up to a 10-year sentence, those folks are serving a very, very small amount of time in DOC on a nonviolent crime,” said Hicks at the recent hearing in the House Judiciary Committee. “In fact, you’re going to serve roughly 90 days on a 10-year-or-less nonviolent crime and, if you haven’t done anything else, you’re getting an ankle bracelet and getting sent back home.”
One would think that, after reversing a two-decade consistent decline in crime, following a weakening of sentencing, lawmakers would at least let the data stew for a few years before pushing more jailbreak. Yet a bipartisan group of Oklahoma politicians are now pushing for a law barring prosecutors from even factoring in previous offenses when pushing for sentencing enhancements on subsequent crimes. So much for the trope about first-time offenders and second chances! Reality has hit them that most people in prison serving meaningful time are really bad dudes. Which is why they are now clamoring to release (or never convict) them too, because that is frankly the only way to achieve their goal of de-incarceration. Public safety be damned.
In the Sooner State, the public would be better off if the politicians realized their mistakes sooner rather than later – after crime returns to pre-millennium levels.
Daniel Horowitz is a senior editor of Conservative Review. Follow him on Twitter @RMConservative.