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State Question 780 draws support and criticism for prison reform

State Question 780 draws support and criticism for prison reform. (KTUL)

TULSA, Okla. (KTUL) -- Oklahomans will decide on the future of drug offenders with State Question 780 on Nov. 8.

The proposition, which would impact both drug and theft cases, would make simple drug possession charges misdemeanors instead of felonies, which they are now. Thefts, which are felonies for property valued at $500 or more, would push that threshold to property valued at $1000.

Jill Webb, the assistant public defender, says the proposition would bring much needed reform and help solve Oklahoma’s high prison population rate.

“The way these laws are set up to make them felonies, I think the thought behind it was we will help addicts by keeping drugs away from them by making the penalty so severe, we are doing them a favor," Webb said. "And what has happened in practice, we have spent decades not helping the addicts but imprisoning them."

District Attorney Steve Kunzweiler says he is against State Question 780.

“Proposition 780 will make Oklahoma the most liberal drug possession state in the union -- more liberal than California and Washington state," Kunzweiler said in a statement.

Sara Townsley, who is serving out a 6-year prison sentence from her first drug conviction, is working in a special program in Tulsa. She is part of the Take 2 restaurant program with Resonance, which provides rehabilitation while Townsley is in custody of the Department of Corrections.

She was convicted for possession of meth.

“I was a young mom at 15, and I’ve made mistakes, I know," Townsley said. "I realize this journey has made me a better person. But I do believe people should get a second chance."

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