Oklahoma House of Representatives Unanimously Approves Sarah Stitt Act, Sen. Weaver to shepherd in state Senate
OKLAHOMA CITY – The Oklahoma House of Representatives on Wednesday (March 10) overwhelmingly passed House Bill 1679, sending to the state Senate the proposal, also known as the “Sarah Stitt Act.”
The legislation would help inmates reenter the workforce after leaving incarceration.
Reps. Marilyn Stark, R-Bethany, and Brian Hill, R-Mustang, authored House Bill 1679, which will be guided in the Senate process by Darrell Weaver, R-Moore.
The measure would require the Oklahoma Department 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, vocational training records, work records, birth certificates, Social Security cards and resumes.
The bill was presented on the House floor by Rep. Stark, who held an interim study in 2019 to examine the need to provide state IDs for people upon their release from incarceration.
“This legislation is especially important to me after having worked with people who were struggling, on the streets or living with friends, just trying to get food without an ID and only their prison ID to use for identification,” Stark said.
“Once a person has served their time, we need to do all we can to help them succeed. I truly believe this is a hand-up and not a hand-out, and working with Rep. Hill and the First Lady on this legislation has been truly rewarding.”
“The First Lady saw the need for a program to prepare people leaving incarceration to find a job, and her work has inspired and helped shape this legislation,” Stark continued. “I look forward to seeing the bill advance in the Senate and become a key part of our criminal justice reform efforts.”
The authors decided to name H.B. 1679 after Oklahoma First Lady Sarah Stitt in recognition of her work to help people leaving incarceration find employment and enter the workforce after the historic commutations in November 2019.
“Oklahoma has made significant strides to address criminal justice reform in the last few years. However, until we help individuals reenter the workforce and become contributing members of society, we will continue to see an extraordinarily high recidivism rate in our state,” Hill said.
“House Bill 1679 is by no means the end-all-be-all, but it is a huge step forward to addressing this issue.”
“H.B. 1679 puts in to law the idea behind the re-entry fairs that were started in November of 2019,” Sarah Stitt said.
“It is so important to the Governor and me that our fellow Oklahomans have the resources and support they need in order to successfully transition back into society. This bill aligns with that vision, and I am excited to see it become a permanent fixture of our corrections system.”
Stark and Hill collaborated on the legislation after similar bills they authored in the 57th Legislature were not heard in the Senate due to the COVID-19 pandemic. H. B. 1679 is a combination of Stark’s House Bill 1310 and Hill’s House Bill 3113, both of which passed the House in 2020.
H.B. 1679 passed the House 94-0 and is now eligible to be heard in the upper chamber of the State Legislature.
Note: Pat McGuigan contributed to this report.