The Norman Transcript

Election Coverage

September 30, 2012

SQ 762 calls for reforms to pardon and parole process

(Continued)

NORMAN —

Proponents of the measure strongly disagree.

If voters approve this change, dollars would be saved and the process would move more smoothly, according to Dr. Susan F. Sharp, L. J. Semrod Presidential Professor of Sociology at the University of Oklahoma.

“The decisions about non-violent cases would be made by individuals with more experience, more knowledge of risk assessment,” Sharp said. “The governor would be able to focus attention on the more serious crimes.”

Sharp supports a “yes” vote on this measure.

“I believe this change is needed because we are the only state that requires the governor to approve every single parole,” she said. “This is a time-consuming process, and it means that our prisons just keep getting fuller. Parole is an important public safety issue, and by putting the governor as the final point of accountability, we make it into a political issue rather than a corrections and public safety issue.”

Mashburn said releasing prisoners is not the answer, however.

“There are other things that can be done, besides just opening the doors,” Mashburn said. “Oklahoma is one of the only states that has a earned credit system and a parole board on top of that. So what you do is have all these people earning their time down.”

Sharp said because parole — even in nonviolent offenses — is a political “hot potato,” the current governor only approves about half of the cases that the Pardon and Parole Board has approved and sent forward to her office.

“This results in duplication of effort, simply wasted time and wasted money,” Sharp said. “There are also other reasons why it would be more expedient to remove non-violent offenders from the requirement of governor approval. Because the process essentially takes twice as long, offenders may actually serve out their time and be released directly to the streets rather than to supervision.

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