A new law passed by Governor Fallin today (May 3, 2011), SB923 increases the punishment from not more than 1 year to not more than 5 years in prison for any person convicted of encouraging, soliciting or recruiting a minor to participate in a gang. The fine is also increased from $1,000 to not more than $5,000 for said offence. A second offense is increased from not more than 5 years to not more than 10 year in prison. This new law also creates a new felony offense for committing a gang-related offense as a condition of membership in a gang with punishment at 5 years in prison in addition to any other penalty imposed. Requires school employees to report suspected gang members to a designated school official. The designated school official is to report the information to local law enforcement.
Representative Mike Shelton says the law will have unintended consequences.
“Most state legislators do not have any formal training or personal knowledge regarding gang issues – all they know about gangs is what they see on TV – yet they are running bills requiring teachers to profile students without knowing how to truly identify a gang member. This is a bad policy that could result in innocent students being wrongly identified as criminals with significant consequences for their futures,” said Shelton, D-Oklahoma City.
Adding “It is not unusual for school officials to not live in the area where they work and, as a result, many of our school personnel are culturally unaware and unable to accurately make these judgment calls,” Shelton said. “Many urban teachers live in suburban communities and have no connection with the local neighborhoods, families or the children they teach. You have to understand what local children go through to survive to tell the difference between a poor child from a rough background and an actual gang member or a child that embraces the hip-hop culture."