At least 462 non-violent inmates were released Monday in the largest mass commutation in the history of Oklahoma and the United States. A further 65 will be released later, bringing the total of those released early to 527.
The historic mass commutation is one of many prison reforms in Oklahoma seeking to reduce the state’s overcrowded prison population. It allows low-level offenders and those guilty of misdemeanors a shot at a new life. In 2016, Oklahoma passed reforms reclassifying some low-level felonies as misdemeanors. For one, possession of a small amount of drugs is now a misdemeanor in Oklahoma.
“Now is the first day of the rest of your life,” said Gov. Kevin Stitt to the freed inmates.
Stitt and other state officials said they’d help with a challenging transition into civilian life for many of the former inmates.
“I applaud the Pardon and Parole Board’s dedication to fulfill the will of the people through the HB 1269 docket, giving hundreds of non-violent, low-level offenders an opportunity at a second chance,” said Stitt.
“I also thank the Department of Corrections and the many non-profits who are stepping up and working hard to connect our inmates with the resources they need for a successful transition. This event is another mark on our historic timeline as we move the needle in criminal justice reform.”
The Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board said that of the inmates that had their sentences commuted, 75 percent are men and 25 percent are women. These people were released an average of 1.34 years early and had been imprisoned for three years on average. The average age of those released is 39.7 years old.
“We really want you to have a successful future,” according to Stitt.
HB 1269, which amends Oklahoma’s criminal sentencing laws, was passed by the Oklahoma Legislature last May. Among other provisions, it authorizes a court to resentence an individual, either by trial or plea, that has been sentenced to a crime that would, as of July 1, 2017 been found guilty as a misdemeanor.
The law authorizes the Pardon and Parole Board to establish an accelerated single-stage commutation docket for any individual convicted of a crime that has been reclassified from a felony to a misdemeanor.
It requires an individual whose sentence is modified be given credit for time served. It also requires that any individual be considered for an accelerated deferred judgment for an offense where the penalty has been subsequently been lowered from a felony to a misdemeanor.
Published at Mon, 04 Nov 2019 17:29:00 +0000