Bill signed expanding Delayed Sentencing Program for Young Adults

Mike Seals - April 13, 2021 10:31 pm

OKLAHOMA CITY – More of Oklahoma’s young offenders will soon get a second chance to get back on the right path thanks to legislation signed late Monday by Gov. Kevin Stitt. Senate Bill 140’s author, Sen. Michael Brooks, D-Oklahoma City, said the measure is an important step to help rehabilitate offenders, reduce recidivism and address prison overpopulation.

The bill increases the age of participation for nonviolent, first time male offenders in the state’s Delayed Sentencing Program for Young Adults from 21 to 25.    

“While some of us learned important life skills growing up, not everyone has the parental guidance and support system to help them get on the right path in life—instead, they often have to learn the hard way, which typically includes run-ins with the law. As a criminal defense attorney, I can say without a doubt that this delayed sentencing program gives these young men the guidance and tools they need to become productive members of society,” Brooks said. “It’s an important and necessary wake up call for many and has changed so many lives. I’m grateful to Representative Newton and the Department of Corrections for working with me on this important bill to transform lives, and also to the Legislature for the tremendous bipartisan support and diligence in getting it through the process.”

The program, also known as Regimented Inmate Discipline (RID), was started by the Department of Corrections (DOC) as a deferred sentencing alternative for young adults ages 18 to 21, who did not qualify as juvenile or youthful offenders. The program is open to those who are found guilty or plea no contest for a nonviolent felony offense, or a juvenile who has been certified to stand trial as an adult for a nonviolent felony offense and who has no charges pending for a violent offense.  Offenders also cannot have been convicted of certain crimes including assault and battery, first- or second-degree murder, kidnapping, crimes against children or drug trafficking.

Rep. Carl Newton, R-Cherokee, is the principal House author of SB 140.

“This program has helped many young people turn their lives around, getting free from addictions, learning new skills for employment – all helpful in keeping them from returning to prison,” Newton said. “I’m grateful for the opportunity to expand this program to even more people by increasing the age limit for participants. One of the prisons in my House district runs a very successful program that has helped many young men, and this will allow them to help even more. I’m also grateful to the Senate author for his help in drafting this bill and getting it through the legislative process and for the governor signing it into law.”

The “boot camp” style program includes services critical to rehabilitation like counseling, psychiatric or medical treatment, education or vocational training, work and restitution. Sentencing is delayed until the program is completed. Based on a participant’s results, a judge can defer judgement, declare or suspend sentencing, recommend community sentencing or dismiss the criminal charges.

DOC requested the bill after the passage of State Question 780 changed simple possession to a misdemeanor, impacting the number of participants in the program.

“The changes brought about under State Question 780 significantly decreased the number of participants in the RID Program from around 250 a year to 50. This program has a high success rate of keeping offenders from returning to prison and helping them become stable, law-abiding citizens,” said Scott Crow, DOC Director. “By increasing the age to 25, we’re estimating the program will grow by about 40 percent, which means so many more young men will get access to this life changing opportunity. We want to thank Senator Brooks and Representative Newton for their hard work on this vital criminal justice reform.”

The new law will go into effect on November 1, 2021.

 

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