Taking a look at new state laws

by Jessica Garvin

On Nov. 1, more than 350 new laws went into effect in Oklahoma. You can learn about all of the measures on the Senate and House websites, but I wanted to go over some of them this week that I thought would be of interest. 

My Senate Bill 320 expands the criteria for those seeking medical parole, also known as compassionate release, to those deemed medically frail and vulnerable. While reforms have been made in recent years to our criminal justice system, our prisons are still at 107% capacity. Much of the prison population is over the age of 65 and a large portion of those have medical conditions that keep them from being able to take care of themselves daily. Our prisons are also understaffed, and these individuals require extra care and attention at a great cost to the state. Previously, only those near death or dying were being considered for early release due to the interpretation of our state’s medical parole statute. This was leaving out a large group of individuals with chronic, debilitating illnesses who were no longer a threat to public safety. Last year, only 12 people in our state’s prison system were granted medical parole.

The medical determination will remain a three-step process with a prison medical provider and DOC’s director and medical director all making the assessment. The DOC director will then request that a person be added to the medical parole docket before the Pardon and Parole Board (PPB). 

I want to again thank the law enforcement members, district attorneys, judges and DOC officials who helped me in drafting this important legislation to ensure more medically frail and vulnerable inmates are considered for compassionate release.

Several new laws came about as a result of the pandemic. One of them was the “No Patient Left Alone Act”, which requires hospitals to allow patients to have at least one visitor, even during state of emergencies. While this practice was used during the pandemic last year, it has been found that the isolation had a detrimental impact on patients’ mental health. Another issue is many patients passed away without getting to properly say goodbye to their families and friends, which also has caused incredible anguish for many Oklahoma families.

Another new law I’d like to mention will help better protect and support victims of domestic violence, stalking or sexual violence by allowing them to terminate a rental lease early without penalty. The individual must provide written notice and a protective order within 30 days of the incident to his or her landlord. Landlords are further prohibited from denying an applicant tenancy or retaliating against the victim because he or she has previously terminated a rental agreement because of intimate partner violence. This will help ensure victims can quickly get away from dangerous living situations.

In closing, the deadline for bill requests for the 2021 session is Friday, Dec. 10. If you have ideas for policy changes or concerns about current law that may need to be addressed through legislation, please let me know. I’m your voice at the state Capitol, but I can only help you if you reach out to me.

If you have any questions or concerns on legislative matters, please contact me at the Capitol. Please write to Senator Jessica Garvin, State Capitol, 2300 N. Lincoln Blvd. Room 237, Oklahoma City, OK, 73105, email me at Jessica.Garvin@oksenate.gov or call (405) 521-5522.