Oklahoma Appleseed’s most active push this year was the Oklahoma Domestic Abuse Survivorship Act (HB 1639). This bill would have allowed survivors of domestic violence to introduce evidence of their abuse at the time of sentencing and receive a shorter sentence. It also would have applied retroactively so that survivors serving prison sentences could have those sentences reduced. The bill would have applied to an estimated 150 sentences in the state.
The bill enjoyed widespread success through the House, receiving a unanimous vote, however the retroactivity portion was removed prior to the House floor vote. Advocates with the OK Survivor Justice Coalition continued to push for retroactivity to be restored in conference. When the bill came out of conference on May 20th, it became clear that the authors of the bill did not restore retroactivity.
Advocates held a press conference on the steps of the Capitol to plead with legislators to restore retroactivity and allow those domestic violence victims in prison to be included in the law change. The bill was released from conference but never scheduled on the House floor to be heard with the new language. The bill did not advance to become law this year.
The OK Survivor Justice Coalition has vowed to continue working on the bill in the interim and bring it back next year in its full form.
Statement on HB 1639 in Oklahoma from the OK Survivor Justice Coalition
Full recording for “Survivor Justice Press Conference on HB 1639” held on Tuesday, May 23, 2023
We need your to help pass HB 1639 with retroactivity:
Rep. Rande Worthen, (405) 557-7398
Rep. Toni Hasenbeck, (405)557-7305
Sen. Julie Daniels, (405)521-5634
We need to get HB 1639 out of the Senate Judiciary Committee:
“The Senate Judiciary meets Tuesday at 2pm — it’s our last chance to get voted out of the Senate Judiciary committee before the deadline next Thursday.
Can you email the committee members and ask them to vote yes for survivors?
Be kind, respectful, and clear about why you support Oklahoma’s domestic violence survivors”.
HB 1639 is off to the senate! This is a tremendous win for all who have personally dealt with domestic violence or have been a witness to it. I truly believe this is a positive step in the right direction for the state of Oklahoma. We are beginning to shed light on this being a systemic issue. There is just one more detail that we can’t leave behind for HB 1639 to pass. Retroactivity must be added to HB 1639. We Can’t Leave Them Behind.
Retroactivity will allow people who are incarcerated a chance to get their prison sentences shortened if they can prove that they were victims of domestic abuse at the time of the crime. Oklahoma Appleseed’s research estimates that there are between 150 and 500 survivors in Oklahoma prisons who can prove their victimization led to their prosecution. Letting them be released on lower sentences would save $3.9 million and $13 million per year to the state budget.
Calls to Action:
For HB 1639 to move forward it is important that the bill is placed on a senate committee. Contact OK Senator Brent Howard to place HB 1639 on the judiciary agenda (405)-521-5612.
The OK Survivor Justice Coalition has gotten our hands on a new action tool to write emails to the Oklahoma legislature. We are needing collective effort to put retroactivity back on HB 1639. Please use the following link to send an email/and or call your Oklahoma senator, script included! https://ujoin.co/campaigns/2221/actions/public?action_id=2389
April 13th – Senate Committee Deadline (we need to be out of senate committee to continue advancing by this day)
April 25th – Domestic Abuse Advocacy Day at the Oklahoma Capitol hosted by OK Appleseed, we will be in the Supreme Court Hallway from 9a-3p. RSVP Here
April 27th – Senate Floor Deadline (we need to be voted off the Senate floor by the end of the day on the 27th to return to the house for final passage).
In Case You Missed It: Updates on April Wilkens
Here’s a recap of what Free April Wilkens advocates and April Wilkens herself have been up to!
The Oklahoma Survivor Justice Coalition went to the capitol last week, organized by Oklahoma Appleseed Center for Law & Justice in support of House Bill 1639, a bill authored by Representative Toni Hasenbeck (R). This new legsilation, if passed, could help women like April in Oklahoma. The bill UNANIMOUSLY passed out of the House Judiciary – Criminal committee, chaired by Rande Worthen, on Wednesday (you should be able to view a recording here).
The final day at the capitol, Thursday, was a time of not only reaching out to legislators, but carrying the voices of criminalized survivors into offices – including April’s (click this link to hear their voices/stories). For a recap of the events, see these posts:
- OK Appleseed Facebook post here and this post here about the week.
- Twitter thread recap of committee vote.
- Follow the hashtag #SurvivorsDeserveRealJustice
- Toni Hasenbeck speaking during the committee meeting.
April’s Op-ed was published and Podcast updates: Right before we were set to go to the capitol, April was published in The Oklahoman. Later, a version ran in USA Today, the Daily Caller, and other outlets. The wide range of outlets hopefully shows this is a bipartisan issue. Also before going to the capitol, Panic Button podcast hosts Colleen McCarty and Leslie Briggs released an update episode and teased season 2!
For a recap/refresher on season 1’s final episode, see this post from April’s niece.
Learn more about HB 1639 in these articles/news stories:
- She killed her abuser. An Oklahoma House committee passed a bill that could set her free. – The Oklahoman
- Oklahoma bill to reduce sentences for convicted domestic abuse survivors clears hurdle – KTUL Channel 8
- Oklahoma lawmakers push forward new bill surrounding domestic abuse cases – KOCO News 5
- Video: Okla. lawmakers considering bill lowering sentences for abuse victims – Fox 23
- Bill to reduce sentences for convicted domestic abuse victims passes through Oklahoma House committee – KFOR
Oklahoma Appleseed has made it easy to contact your Oklahoma legislators in support of HB 1639. Use their action network portal to write them.
- Tomorrow, Tuesday, March 7th, is the 1 year anniversary of April’s latest parole jacket being denied by the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board. They didn’t even read all the letters we collected for her. They didn’t even give her a chance to speak for herself. The appeals, parole, and commutation process have failed April. That’s why we’re turning to legislation and supporting HB 1639.
- Also tomorrow, another criminalized survivor is up for her chance for freedom. Lisa Rae Moss has made it to a Stage II commutation hearing. That’s a big deal in and of itself in Oklahoma. But, even if she gets the votes tomorrow, Governor Kevin Stitt will have to sign off on it. We are watching how the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board votes on this case for sure! You should be able to watch live online. Learn more about Lisa’s case here. Many will be in-person to witness the vote tomorrow, wearing black.
Last letter writing event day is today!
Need a ride to the capitol from Tulsa to OKC for the Feb. 27th event? Take this bus!
☎️☎️☎️ Time to contact your Oklahoma Legislator about HB 1639 ☎️☎️☎️
Find your Oklahoma legislator.
Join the coalition here https://oksurvivorjusticecoalition.org/
There are 2 capitol dates we hope to see you at. RSVP here and learn more.