The American Civil Liberties Union is taking shots at the state legislature, saying lawmakers are putting criminal justice reform on the back burner. 

Last year Oklahoma drew national headlines for the largest commutation in US history; more than 500 non-violent inmates were released before their sentences were up.  And lawmakers promised to continue passing legislation to reduce the prison population.

“And what we have not seen is sort of the promise of picking up on any of the reform bills of last session,” said Nicole Mcafee of the ACLU of Oklahoma.

The ACLU held a press conference Tuesday, slamming lawmakers for not taking up bills regarding bail reform; fines and fees; and releasing non-violent suspects who are pregnant or primary caregivers.

“There are children who need their parents at home, we need to look at sentencing. We need to look at the juries being able to say it’s OK for a mom who has a baby at home or is pregnant to be able to go home to her child,” said Kristen Harlin of Criminal Justice and Mercy Ministries of Oklahoma.

Representative Rande Worthen (R) of Lawton, a longtime prosecutor, voted against several of the bills the ACLU wanted passed.  He says local law enforcement and courts know better how to balance justice and public safety in their own communities than some blanket legislation.

“Those people are known by the courts and by the DA’s and so they should have the discretion to handle those situations better than anybody else. Better than people here in Oklahoma City telling us how to do it,” Worthen said.

Mcafee said, “In election years folks are used to posturing to tough on crime priorities.  And there are a lot of folks in power who want to maintain the status quo because they benefit from it.”