Oklahoma City, OK — In what is being called the largest-ever single day of commutations in the history of the United States, hundreds of non-violent drug offenders and other low-level non-violent offenders are being set free from Oklahoma prisons on Monday.
In a historical move, Governor Kevin Stitt signed the recommendations to release more than 450 inmates on Friday. Now, all these people whose lives were thought to be ruined because they were caught with substances deemed illegal by the state, will have a second chance at life.
This move comes after a 2016 measure passed through the Oklahoma legislative process, titled State Question 780, making low-level drug and property crimes misdemeanors instead of felonies. Gov. Stitt signed a bill earlier this year, retroactively applying this law to those who were rotting in jail for having a bit of a plant on them.
“From the 30,000-foot view, the criminal justice landscape is light-years ahead of where it was three or four years ago,” criminal justice reform advocate Ryan Kiesel, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Oklahoma told The Washington Post. “It would have been impossible before State Question 780 passed in Oklahoma; that signaled to lawmakers there was an appetite for reform.”
One of these prisoners to be released on Monday is Rose Ortiz, who has been rotting in a jail cell as part of her seven year sentence for drug possession. During her time in prison, Ortiz gave birth to a baby daughter. Now, she will finally be reunited with her.
KTVH News interviewed another woman who had her sentence for drug possession commuted in December. Since then, she’s turned around her life, gotten a job and an apartment.
After being released, Johnna Davidson completed a program for transitional living, got her own apartment and has had a job as a welder for almost a year, according to KTVH.
“I’m excited that they’re getting a second chance,” said Davidson. “I hope that they utilize the resources that they’re given and take it serious.”
What’s more, by releasing so many non-violent drug offenders, the taxpayers of Oklahoma are going to save millions in prison costs. It is a win, win.
Sadly, many people see this as a bad idea and are fearful that these people who happened to get caught with substances deemed illegal by the state, may one day show up at their house to rob or kill them. TFTP came across a reddit post on this topic with people claiming “this is how the purge begins.”
These folks couldn’t be more wrong, however. As TFTP has consistently reported, putting someone into the prison system for a drug offense actually fosters future criminal behavior while taking them out has the opposite affect.
For decades, the US has been kidnapping, caging, and killing people for drug use and the problem has gotten worse—not better. We now find ourselves in the midst of one of the worst drug epidemics in history and no amount of police force or violence is doing anything to solve it. In fact, it does the exact opposite.
Richard Nixon, in his effort to silence black people and antiwar activists, brought the War on Drugs into full force in 1973. He then signed Reorganization Plan No. 2, which established the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). Over the course of five decades, this senseless war has waged on. At a cost of over $1 trillion — ruining and ending countless lives in the process — America’s drug war has created a drug problem that is worse now than ever before.
This is no coincidence.
For years, those of us who’ve been paying attention have seen who profits from this inhumane war — the police state and cartels.
The reason why the drug war actually creates a drug and violence problem is simple, and those who profit most from the drug war — drug war enforcers and cartels — all know it. When the government makes certain substances illegal, it does not remove the demand. Instead, the state creates crime by pushing the sale and control of these substances into the illegal black markets. All the while, demand remains constant.
We can look at the prohibition of alcohol and the subsequent mafia crime wave that ensued as a result as an example. The year 1930, at the peak of prohibition, happened to be the deadliest year for police in American history. 300 police officers were killed, and innumerable poor people slaughtered as the state cracked down on drinkers.
Outlawing substances does not work.
Criminal gangs form to protect sales territory and supply lines. They then monopolize the control of the constant demand. Their entire operation is dependent upon police arresting people for drugs because this grants them a monopoly on their sale.
It is incredibly racist too. The illegality of drug possession and use is what keeps the low-level users and dealers in and out of the court systems, and most of these people are poor black men. As Dr. Ron Paul has pointed out, black people are more likely to receive a harsher punishment for the same drug crime as a white person.
This revolving door of creating and processing criminals fosters the phenomenon known as Recidivism. Recidivism is a fundamental concept of criminal justice that shows the tendency of those who are processed into the system and the likelihood of future criminal behavior.
The War on Drugs takes good people, who may have a substance abuse problem, and turns them into criminals every single minute of every single day. The system is setup in such a way that it fans the flames of violent crime by essentially building a factory that turns out violent criminals.
The system knows this too — as the very existence of the police state is dependent upon the drug war. When drugs are legal, there are far fewer doors to kick in, fines to collect, for-profit prisons to fill, and money to steal.
When drugs are legalized, gang violence drops too — drastically. Not only does it have a huge effect on the localized gangs in America, but the legalization of drugs is crippling to the violent foreign drug cartels too.
This is why the Free Thought Project and other open-minded groups all advocate bringing this bloody and criminally ineffective drug war to a sudden and grinding halt.
Hopefully, this move in Oklahoma adds more weight to the snowball that is the crippling of the drug war and we may finally see it brought to its knees.