Wednesday, December 5, 2018
OKLAHOMA CITY – Governor Mary Fallin, who has championed criminal justice reform legislation the past three years, today commuted the sentences of 21 nonviolent offenders who were incarcerated for 10 years or more for offenses that now carry either no prison term or a significantly shorter prison term.
These 21 made it to the final step in a three-stage process by receiving a favorable vote from at least a simple majority of the five-member Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board. Those being assisted through the commutation campaign are serving 10 years or longer for crimes that now carry lesser punishments following recent reforms approved by voters and legislators.
Oklahomans for Criminal Justice Reform, a bipartisan coalition of community leaders, has been working to help dozens of inmates seek a commutation, which is a form of clemency intended to correct an unjust or excessive sentence.
Fallin has signed 17 criminal justice reforms during her time in office, including seven this year that will reduce the flow of nonviolent offenders into prison; establish a more efficient and streamlined parole process; and facilitate successful reentry that reduces recidivism.
The governor today commuted all 21 offenders to time served, meaning the inmates will be released from custody. The inmates are expected to be freed today.
“Before these applications could get to my desk, they had to pass a rigorous review process at the Pardon and Parole Board,” said Fallin. “Not a lot of commutations reach my desk, but when I receive commutations, I give them another independent, rigorous review. I have reviewed all of these applications carefully, with the public safety of our citizens a key consideration.
“Based on the will of the voters and legislators, plus my thorough review of these cases, I cannot think of any reason why these 21 people should remain in prison. It’s not good policy and it’s not good for Oklahoma. That’s why I commuted these 21 people to time served and am sending them home for the holidays. It’s time for them to come home.”
The 21 offenders were sentenced to a cumulative 349 years of incarceration. Fallin’s action shaved 306 years off those sentences; instead of being incarcerated, they will get into treatment and back into society with a plan to succeed.
In addition to helping with the commutation applications, Oklahomans for Criminal Justice Reform worked with family, friends and non-profits to build strong reentry plans for the offenders. The organization has secured treatment, housing, transportation and even job interview offers.
“Oklahoma has become a destructive felony factory, but courageous, wise actions like Governor Fallin took today show times are changing,” said Gene Rainbolt, founder and chairman emeritus of BancFirst and board member of Oklahomans for Criminal Justice Reform. “For too long we have locked up Oklahomans instead of giving them the help they need to overcome their addiction and get good jobs to help grow our state’s economy. Governor Fallin and the Pardon and Parole Board have shown leadership and laid the groundwork for legislators to move swiftly to make State Question 780 retroactive next session. Oklahoma shouldn’t waste any more time and funding on out-of-date mass incarceration that does not contribute to public safety.”
Stephanie Horten, director of the Criminal Justice Collaborative at Family & Children’s Services, said: “We know that robust reentry plans for these individuals will be critical to their success, which is why Family & Children’s Services worked side-by-side with Resonance Center for Women and many other nonprofits to ensure support is built around these applicants so they know we believe in them and that they are not alone in this next phase of their lives. “We are thrilled Governor Fallin chose today to reunite families, especially in time for the holidays, and we remain dedicated to supporting families and children impacted by the criminal justice system.”