OKLAHOMA CITY – The governor this week ceremonially signed a bill that will allow for a victim-led restorative justice pilot program to be established in the state.
House Bill 1880, by House Majority Whip Tammy West, R-Oklahoma City, was formally signed into law in April. Ceremonial bill signings allow lawmakers and those influential in helping to draft the legislation or those most affected by it to attend.
Under the new law, which takes effect Nov. 1, non-violent offenders will be diverted from traditional prosecution and incarcerations models to trained citizen-led mediation panels that help determine punishment and restoration. The program will utilize evidence-based practices and techniques.
“The goal is rehabilitation of the offender through reconciliation with the victims and the community at large,” West said. “I examined models from across the country and found restorative justice programs work well. Victims of crime feel restored, members of the community feel satisfied. Perpetrators of crimes know the weight of their actions and make restitution without having to serve lengthy jail or prison sentences. This is true criminal justice reform.”
“These programs provide non-violent offenders the opportunity to get treatment and help they need without putting further strain on our criminal justice system,” said Sen. Darcy Jech, R-Kingfisher, the Senate author of the bill. “I was pleased with the House and Senate’s overwhelming approval of this legislation and the governor signing it into law. I’m eager to see the results once district attorneys across the state establish these programs for qualified offenders.”
Kathryn Brewer, assistant executive coordinator of the Oklahoma District Attorneys Council said, “The District Attorneys Council appreciates the efforts of Representative Tammy West and Senator Darcy Jech to enact victim-centered legislation that provides an opportunity to divert offenders from a traditional prosecution track.”
District Attorney Jason Hicks, District 6 (Jefferson, Stephens, Caddo and Grady Counties) added, “I am excited about House Bill 1880. Restorative Justice focuses on offender accountability rather than punishment, while still honoring the voices of victims. DA’s offices will now have the ability to involve the community in helping offenders take responsibility for their actions in a different way by focusing on the harm the crime caused and its impact to the victim and the community.”
- Tammy West serves District 84 in the Oklahoma House of Representatives, which includes part of Oklahoma County.