According to a recent report from The National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), the number of meth lab seizure incidents in the state of Oklahoma increased by 440% from 2008 to 2011. From 2009 to 2010, Oklahoma was listed as one of the top ten states for rates of drug use in a number of categories surveyed, including past-month use of illicit drugs other than marijuana among persons age 12 or older and past-year non-medical use of pain relievers among persons age 12 or older. Meanwhile, as a result of the state cracking down on drug offenders, Oklahoma has the third highest drug incarceration rate in the United States. 50% of Oklahoma prisoners are incarcerated for non-violent property and drug offenses.
Harsh Penalties and Lost Resources
Data collected and released from the Oklahoma Department of Corrections reveal that individuals incarcerated for first-time drug offenses are often penalized with lengthy prison terms, such as five years for crack cocaine and six years for powder cocaine offenses, ranging from possession to trafficking. The state’s harsh approach to sentencing has been common since the height of the drug war in the 1980s, but compelling research over the past three decades has shown that lower-risk offenders are actually more likely to be negatively-affected by incarceration. In fact, the most successful sentencing practices studied were those that enabled offenders to maintain relationships with their families, employers, and community to foster more successful reentries into public life.
Big Difference Between Crack and Powder Cocaine Possession
In 1990, Oklahoma legislators enacted a sentencing disparity between crack and powder cocaine, which assigned a 10-year mandatory minimum sentence for just five grams of crack and 28 grams of powder cocaine. In the past few years, federal legislators modified penalties for crack cocaine sentencing, although 12 states (including Oklahoma) continue to enforce this type of disparity.
Oklahoma Drug Crimes and Race
Studies show similar rates of drug use among both blacks and whites, yet more than one-third of all drug arrests are of African Americans, and they serve state prison sentences on drug charges at ten times the rate of whites. Although the legal debate over the disparate punishments for crack and powder cocaine crimes never explicitly mentions race, rhetoric surrounding public discussions of the crack epidemic effectively categorized crack as a “black” drug. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) reports that, among crack users nationally, whites make up 50%, blacks 37%, and Latinos 13%. Yet racial minorities constitute 86% of people sentenced to prison for crack offenses in Oklahoma.
Oklahoma Felony Crimes and Classes
Oklahoma defines a felony as any crime punishable by death or life imprisonment, and it is one of just a handful of states that does not classify felonies based on severity. In Oklahoma, each felony corresponds to a specific set of penalties. However, the state also imposes additional penalties on repeat offenders. Certain crimes are subject to the state’s “85 percent rule,” which requires prisoners to serve at least 85 percent of their sentences to be eligible for parole.
If you or someone you know needs help navigating the complex criminal justice system in Oklahoma, don’t hesitate to contact our firm for advice from highly-experienced and effective criminal defense lawyers.