Posted On 04 Nov 2019
More than 400 inmates across Oklahoma are expected to be released from prison Monday in what the governor’s office calls the largest single-day mass commutation in the nation’s history.
The Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board approved the commutations Friday and forwarded them to Gov. Kevin Stitt, a former mortgage company CEO who was elected in 2018. The board voted unanimously to recommend that the sentences of 527 state inmates be commuted, with 462 of those inmates slated to walk out of prison Monday.
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“With this vote, we are fulfilling the will of Oklahomans,” Steve Bickley, executive director of the board, said in a statement Friday. “However, from Day One, the goal of this project has been more than just the release of low level, nonviolent offenders, but the successful re-entry of these individuals back into society.”
Stitt, a Republican, has advocated for criminal justice reform, pledging to move away from policies that have made Oklahoma the state with the highest incarceration rate in the country. At a news conference Friday, Stitt hailed the decision to give hundreds of Oklahomans “a second chance.”
“This marks an important milestone of Oklahomans wanting to focus the state’s efforts on helping those with non-violent offenses achieve better outcomes in life,” Stitt said in a statement Monday.
“The historic commutation of individuals in Oklahoma’s prisons is only possible because our state agencies, elected officials, and partnering organizations put aside politics and worked together to move the needle,” he added.
Oklahoma voters approved a state question in 2016 that changed simple drug possession and low-level property crimes from felonies to misdemeanors. Stitt signed a bill this year that retroactively adjusted those sentences, approving a fast-track commutation docket for those who met the criteria.
“These are real lives — real people with real families and with real friends — and they get to go home,” Republican State Rep. John Echols said at the news conference Friday.
The governor’s office said he is scheduled to greet an estimated 70 women whose sentences have been commuted at 3 p.m. ET Monday outside the gates of the Dr. Eddie Warrior Correctional Facility, an all-women’s prison in Taft, Oklahoma.
Associated Press contributed.