OKLAHOMA CITY – The Oklahoma State Conference of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, (NAACP) has announced its endorsement of State Question 805 (SQ805) as the right step forward as Oklahoma confronts its mass incarceration crisis.

Oklahoma has recently taken steps to address its incarceration situation, but a critical aspect that still must be fixed is sentence enhancements, the NAACP said. Sentence enhancements are a tool prosecutors use, at their own discretion, to add years and sometimes decades to a person’s sentence. These harsh sentencing practices have been levied against blacks and minority communities in Oklahoma for decades, which is why the Oklahoma State Conference, NAACP, announced its endorsement of SQ805.

“Oklahoma’s black and minority communities make up a disproportionate share of our state’s prison population, and a leading reason for that is prosecutorial discretion with sentence enhancements that allows people to be sentenced more than once for the same crime,” said Anthony R. Douglas, president, Oklahoma State Conference, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).

State Question 805 is a proposed ballot measure, supporters of which are still in the process of soliciting signatures. It has not yet been approved for placement on the ballot as an issue for the voters of the state to decide.

The NAACP said it is fully aware that district attorneys across the state have also publicly opposed the measure, saying it would negatively impact public safety. However, the organization takes the view that sentence enhancements are bad policy that has hurt many blacks, and minority communities, and can be fixed with State Question 805.

Oklahoma has the highest incarceration rate of black men in the nation, the NAACP said. One in 29 African American adults in Oklahoma is in prison. Black people make up 7% of the Oklahoma population, but 26% of the incarcerated population. Latinos make up 9% of the Oklahoma population, but 15% of the incarcerated population. Decades of bad criminal justice policies have torn families apart and hurt Oklahoma’s black and minority communities, all in the name of making the state safer, the NAACP said. This is because of “tough on crime” laws that led to unaddressed issues with criminal justice policy, implicit bias against blacks and minorities within the justice system, and unequal enforcement of the law.

“State Question 805 is needed to bring common-sense sentencing reform to our state so we can address our incarceration crisis head on,” the NAACP said. “State Question 805 will end the use of sentence enhancements for nonviolent offenses, and it would allow Oklahomans who have already received an extreme sentence to petition the court for relief.”

Oklahomans for Sentencing Reform is a diverse and bipartisan initiative committed to implementing common-sense sentencing reform in Oklahoma. The group, which includes community leaders, advocates and directly impacted people, intends to curb the use of harsh and ineffective sentence enhancements by advocating to put State Question 805 on the 2020 ballot. To learn more about this ballot initiative, please visit https://www.yeson805.org/.