NORMAN — Proponents of State Question 762 say it will save the state millions of dollars. Opponents say it will open the gates for those prisoners who need to serve their time.
State Question 762 modifies the power and authority of the governor and Pardon and Parole Board in the parole process for nonviolent offenders by removing the governor from the process.
“Letting the governor focus on parole recommendations for violent crimes is a critical component of Oklahoma’s recent progress to build a stronger, more effective criminal justice system,” said House Speaker Kris Steele, R-Shawnee. “Approving this measure will generate tens of millions of dollars in savings that can be reinvested in initiatives that truly reduce and prevent crime. A vote for SQ 762 is a vote for a safer Oklahoma.”
The 2007 audit of the Department of Corrections found that removing the governor from the parole process for nonviolent offenders would save up to $40 million over the course of a decade because of the increased efficiencies and quicker processing of paroles.
“It is our hope that these savings can then be reinvested into strategies to aggressively reduce and prevent crime,” Steele said.
“The Legislature defines what offenses are nonviolent offenses and the Legislature may change that definition,” according to the ballot language
District Attorney Greg Mashburn of Norman strongly opposes the measure and supports a “no” vote.
“I am very much opposed to 762. It removes all accountability to the pardon and parole process,” Mashburn said. “By taking the governor out, it allows the Pardon and Parole Board to parole people straight to the streets with no checks and balances. The Pardon and Parole Board is not accountable to the people of the state of Oklahoma. For instance, if a parole board member is from, let’s say Clinton, and they want to release someone to the streets of Idabel, they’re not accountable to anyone in Idabel. They don’t have to answer to the people of Idabel. And we know, based on recent experience with the parole board, they’re not acting very responsible with their choices. They’re putting people on the docket that aren’t even eligible for parole. The only way we’ve been able to stop that is through the governor’s office.”