Criminal Justice Reform Bill Signed into Law
Mike Seals - April 21, 2021 11:05 pm
OKLAHOMA CITY – Legislation by Reps. Marilyn Stark, R-Bethany, and Brian Hill, R-Mustang, that will revolutionize the way Oklahomans reenter the workforce after incarceration has been signed into law.
House Bill 1679 would require the Oklahoma Dept. of Corrections (DOC) to identify inmates leaving custody within nine months of release and begin gathering certain documentation to help them find post-incarceration employment. The documentation would include a four-year state ID, birth certificates, Social Security cards, vocational training records, work records and resumes.
“Throughout my career, prior to being elected to the House, I worked directly with many people who were experiencing homelessness or couldn’t access a food pantry because they had lost track of their identification,” Stark said. “Providing items as simple as a state ID, other identification paperwork and documentation of work history can significantly help a person leaving incarceration find a job, find housing and find their footing in society.”
Stark and Hill have pursued the policy changes for several years. In 2020, Stark filed legislation to provide state IDs for people upon their release from incarceration, and Hill filed legislation to require DOC to provide an offender with documentation that will assist them in finding post-release employment. Both bills passed the House but were not heard in the Senate due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Right now, we’re not helping our citizens who have paid their debt to society get back on their feet as much as we should be,” Hill said. “Not only does this bill help grow our economy and promote public safety, but frankly, it’s the right thing to do. With the signing of this legislation, I hope we as a state can become better neighbors to these Oklahomans.”
HB1679 was carried in the Senate by Sen. Darrell Weaver, R-Moore. The bill passed both chambers unanimously.
“I’m so grateful and proud to have worked on this legislation, because it’s goal is to help those who have served their time succeed as they return to their communities, their families and the workforce—that’s a positive not just for those individuals but for our entire state,” Weaver said. “I want to thank Representative Stark and Representative Hill for their hard work on this bill, our fellow members for their support, Governor Stitt, for signing the legislation, and our First Lady, Sarah Stitt, for her leadership on this important issue.”
HB1679 is named the “Sarah Stitt Act” after First Lady Sarah Stitt’s work to help people leaving incarceration find employment and enter the workforce after the historic commutations in Nov. 2019. It takes effect Nov. 1, 2021.