District Court

OKLAHOMA CITY — To address racial disparities in Oklahoma’s justice system, future criminal justice legislation may have to go through an additional step before being approved.

State Sen. George Young, D-Oklahoma City, filed Senate Bill 1184, which requires a racial impact statement to accompany any bill that would lengthen sentences, create a new offense or change penalties for existing offenses.

Young said lawmakers must play a vital role in criminal justice reforms by looking critically at how bills might disproportionately impact communities of color, which are incarcerated at higher rates than their white counterparts.

“These problems may not be purposeful,” Young said. “But if there was a purposeful attempt to do something harmful to certain communities, things would look a lot like they do right now. … So we have to do everything we can to lower our incarceration rate.”

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