After November 3 defeat, Yes on 805 will continue the fight for criminal justice reform 

OKLAHOMA CITY — On election night (November 3), Sarah Edwards, President of Yes on 805, released the following statement in response to the defeat of State Question 805:

“The momentum for criminal justice reform is stronger than ever in Oklahoma. Hundreds of thousands of Oklahomans from across the political spectrum cast their vote in support of State Question 805 and demanded our state leaders take bold action to end our incarceration crisis.

“This campaign has shown that the status quo of Oklahoma’s top imprisonment rates and overcrowded prisons is not acceptable. Our state spends more than half a billion dollars on the prison system each year, and we can no longer afford a ‘tough on crime’ mentality that actually means ‘tough on taxpayers’ and ‘tough on families.’

“[W]e hope that members of our Legislature and the Governor will live up to their word to take action to tackle our state’s extreme sentencing laws. We have built a powerful bipartisan movement that will continue to fight for common-sense reforms in the months ahead.

“We need reform now. We demand the Oklahoma Legislature act on common-sense criminal justice reform this legislative session.”

The Yes on 805 campaign was an extension of Oklahomans for Criminal Justice Reform, a statewide organization that has seen both notable successes (State Questions 780 and 781 most notably) and frustrating defeats. Before the organization emerged, in 2011-2012, the Oklahoma Speaker of the House,  
Kris Steele of Shawnee guided significant reforms to enactment, but the Justice Reinvestment Initiative (JRI) – much of it enacted into law – was stymied in implementation after Steele left elective office. 

After last week’s election in a statement first posted on Facebook, Patrick B. McGuigan, founder of (an online news service) and publisher of The City Sentinel newspaper, commented, “I was proud to support State Question 805, and to carry pro-805 messages on the Facebook pages and websites I manage – and in our November 2020 print edition of The City Sentinel. Although the measure garnered 54 percent [support] in Oklahoma County, it lost statewide.”

McGuigan was co-editor of ‘Crime and Punishment in Modern America’, a compilation of scholarly conservative and libertarian essays making the case for broad reforms of the criminal justice system, released during the Reagan Administration. He has written frequent news stories and commentaries focused on problems with Oklahoma’s death penalty process. 

McGuigan said The City Sentinel’s editorials and commentaries would advocate for new incremental reforms of the state’s judicial system. McGuigan is a member of the Oklahoma Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty (OK-CADP). 

The diverse support coalition for S. Q. 805 included scholars and leaders at the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs (OCPA) and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU)
Opponents of S.Q. 805 contended they supported further criminal justice reforms, but “not this state question.” Among their criticisms was the measure was crafted to amend the state constitution, rather than revise statutes. Many members of the state organization for District 
Attorneys have opposed every step taken to reform the state’s system, including this proposition. 
Governor Kevin Stitt, who supported incremental criminal justice reforms early in his administration, opposed the ballot initiative, as did other Republican elected officials. 

In Oklahoma County, both candidates for Sheriff (Democrat Wayland Cubit and Republican Tommie Johnson, the GOP nominee who won the office on November 3) opposed S.Q. 805. Another prominent opponent of the ballot proposition was Steve Fair, a high-ranking Republican and a conservative columnist whose essays appear frequently on the CapitolBeatOK website. 

About Yes on 805 and Oklahomans for Sentencing Reform: Oklahomans for Sentencing Reform is a diverse and bipartisan initiative committed to implementing common-sense sentencing reform in Oklahoma. The group, which includes community leaders, advocates and people who are directly impacted, worked to stop the use of harsh and ineffective repeat sentence penalties by advocating passage of State Question 805 on the 2020 ballot. For more information, please visit