Patterico's Pontifications


Oklahoma Releases Hundreds Of Inmates In Historic Commutation

Filed under: General — Dana @ 6:13 am

[guest post by Dana]

This is what criminal justice reform looked like in Oklahoma yesterday:

More than 400 inmates were released in Oklahoma on Monday in the largest mass commutation in U.S. history, news station KOCO reports. More than 500 inmates’ sentences were commuted by the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board last week as part of the state’s criminal justice reform, and 462 inmates were able to walk free Monday. The inmates who left and are slated to leave prison were doing time for nonviolent crimes, like drug possession and low-level property crime. The move will reportedly save Oklahomans almost $12 million in taxpayer dollars.

Voters determined the legislative change leading up to yesterday’s mass release of prisoners:

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.

Echoing his predecessor Mary Fallin, Gov. Stitts, a Republican, did not like that Oklahoma had the “dubious honor” of being at the top of the list for incarcerations. From his comments about the historic event:

“This marks an important milestone of Oklahomans wanting to focus the state’s efforts on helping those with nonviolent offenses achieve better outcomes in life,” Stitt said in a statement Monday.

“This is really a second chance for each and every one of you, and I want to challenge you,” Stitt said. “Because you know there will be tough times ahead. But your kids, your family, your future – everything depends on you getting tough and making sure you get the help you need, so you do not come back here and make the same mistakes that have happened in the past.”

“Now is the first day of the rest of your lives.”


Of the hundreds of inmates who had their sentences commuted:
— The average age is 39.7 years old
— 75% are men, and 25% are women
— They had been incarcerated for three years
— They were being released an average of 1.34 years early

(Cross-posted at The Jury Talks Back.)


15 Responses to “Oklahoma Releases Hundreds Of Inmates In Historic Commutation”

  1. Doing the will of the people.

    Dana (cb74ca)

  2. As a resident of Oklahoma, I think it’s great we’re following California’s example and legalizing crime. I can’t wait for the day I have to dodge needles and human feces on the sidewalk.

    Edoc118 (2faa81)

  3. yeah, but you guys have just enabled, as of November 1, Open Carry without permit, so at least there’s a risk calculation in your favor.

    urbanleftbehind (5eecdb)

  4. Speaking of CA and crime, The Atlantic posted a column letting its readers know that porch thieves aren’t the problem, it’s the people recording and reporting porch theft.

    harkin (d9e504)

  5. I wonder how many of these guys will come to Dallas, Austin, maybe as far as Houston.

    It takes more than just smoking a joint to go to prison for years for simple drug possession. The addictions and mental illnesses at play probably didn’t go away.

    Since Oklahoma’s doing this to save money, they probably don’t have much in the way of asylums. Cheaper to tell them to live under bridges.

    Ideally these folks released from prison are mentally fit enough to manage, and get a great job. Is that possible?

    Dustin (d42b09)

  6. 400 inmates released! With one-third of their sentences still left! [Clutches pearls, staggers to fainting couch.] The catastrophe! The tragedy? The end of civilization as we know it! Won’t somebody please think of the children?

    nk (dbc370)

  7. Those that got released in OK served hard time at least; future offenders with similar charges will get a taste of lightweight Kim Foxx Cook County justice.

    urbanleftbehind (5eecdb)

  8. If you’re going to let them out, have a plan. It’s difficult for felons to get a job, and a lot of these guys weren’t expecting to be free at this point. If the plan is to live under a bridge that’s just a different kind of prison.

    Dustin (d42b09)

  9. Sanctions for crimes ought to prevent further transgressions by the malfeasors and not serve as taxpayer provided housing for people. The average age of the released is 39.7. The vast majority of serious crimes are committed by younger offenders. I would predict little risk from this over the hill mob.

    Fred (f200ab)

  10. This report says that there has been some effort made for their transition:

    He urged them to reach out when they need help. In the weeks leading up to Monday’s release, the governor’s office worked with the Department of Corrections, nonprofit groups and other community partners to hold “transition fairs” inside prisons to connect people who were eligible for commutation with transitional housing, mental health services, jobs and other resources.

    Dana (cb74ca)

  11. It kind of looks like a ink blot test where what you see what you want to see.

    I don’t really have the context to understand if this good, bad, or meh.

    If we’re letting people our who were serving more time than was appropriate for their crime it’s good. It’s also good if we’re aligning previous sentences with new guidelines.

    If we’re letting dangerous people out on the street to save money it’s bad.

    Because of the disconnect between what actually happened and what was charged it’s hard to make that determination. Since I don’t live in Oklahoma I just have to trust that their legislature acted in the best interest of the citizens.

    Time123 (f5cf77)

  12. Great link, Dana. I’m curious to see the follow up on the success of these job fairs and other programs. Mental health treatment before someone needs to be in prison, or emergency treatment, is actually so much cheaper than the emergency treatment that it can be arguably cost effective (and the more you analyze it the better it looks, if someone actually gets better and productive long term).

    But my experience is that a lot of these programs and decisions generate the headlines and leave a lot of accidental societal problems. I don’t mind that someone only served 3 years instead of 4 for possession of meth, but they are still someone who is so screwed up they wanted to use meth, and that’s a tough problem to solve.

    Dustin (d42b09)

  13. @8. It’s difficult for felons to get a job…

    Not with Fox.

    DCSCA (797bc0)

  14. Part of a solution would be to not put up with recidivism by these beneficiaries and to divert first time offenders of the property and low amount drug possession crimes to work programs.
    The people who aspire only to a life of crime will ditch the program early and start stealing your stuff within days if not hours and should be dealt with accordingly.

    One thing about prison that is hard to shake is the younger guys who come out in debt to the people that protected them or they just come out hard, and tough and treat every situation like they would in prison. Either way, that first sentence often sets the tone for the rest of their life and I’m a fan of trying to divert first time low budget offenders to something more positive than prison

    steveg (354706)

  15. This from NPR about the prisoners re-entry:

    The governor says those people will walk out with access to social services that will help them successfully re-enter society thanks to dozens of non-profits and state agencies that met with prisoners during the state’s first-ever prisoner transition fares.

    It sounds like concerns about placement, jobs, etc have been addressed by the governor and his staff, as well as private and public sector agencies, although I’d like to see more specifics.

    Dana (cb74ca)

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