State Senator George Young, D-Oklahoma City, issued the following statement in response to the Senate Rules Committee voting down Senate Bill 209, which would require a racial impact statement for any piece of criminal justice legislation that creates a new offense, significantly changes an existing offense, changes the penalty for an existing offense, or changes existing sentencing, parole or probation procedures.
“I am very disappointed with the outcome of the committee presentation of Senate Bill 209. It’s no secret that incarceration disparities exist and are deeply ingrained in our criminal justice system. The events that unfolded just last year across the nation further magnify the reality that we still have a long way to go to achieve true racial equity. Requiring racial impact statements is just one way we can work to bridge the gap of disproportionate incarceration in our state.
“Interestingly, the opposition of the bill seems to harken to days prior to the Civil War. There were questions concerning the blood content of individuals to be considered a minority. Members of the committee also used the old worn-out defense of, ‘I have relatives that are Black and Hispanic,’ which serves no purpose in discussing the fact that we have a problem in our judicial system. The fact that African Americans make up seven percent of the total Oklahoma population, yet represent anywhere from 25 to 35 percent of the incarcerated population is evidence of a system that is rife with disparities.
“We must be willing to admit that institutional racism exists, which speaks to the economic, social, cultural, health and political welfare of people of color in the state of Oklahoma. I am disappointed in the failure of any Republicans to see this bill as a reasonable attempt to address this problem, or to even admit that we have a problem.
“I also submitted legislation to create the Oklahoma Commission of Race and Equality as another piece of the solution, and this bill was not granted a hearing in committee. Just as I have stood alone in the struggle to lift the issue of Senate and House leadership being unwilling to mandate masks for elected officials as they mandated masks for staff and visitors, I will continue to fight for equality and justice that eludes us once again at the hands of those who supposedly are elected to serve the will of the people.”
For more information, contact:
Sen. George Young at 405-521-5531, or email George.Young@oksenate.gov
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