The Norman Transcript

Opinion

January 16, 2013

Parole change should free up prison space

NORMAN — Our state prisons are full and Oklahomans are paying to keep thousands of non-violent offenders locked up. Additionally, the backlog of incoming offenders is clogging up county jails, including Cleveland County’s new $26 million jail on Franklin Road.

Oklahoma voters recognized the need to make changes in our pardon and parole policy when they approved a constitutional amendment removing the governor from the process, effectively cutting time off a parolee’s prison time.

Under the old system, the governor could take 30 days to sign off on parole recommendations on non-violent cases. Gov. Mary Fallin and the state’s district attorneys campaigned against State Question 762.

The Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board this week followed the voters lead and adopted new policies related to parole for non-violent offenders. Now, the board chair or executive director can sign off on parole for a non-violent offender. The governor still has authority on those convicted of certain violent offenses.

The measures were pushed by then House Speaker Kris Steele. Additionally, we trust that the pardon and parole board will look at an offender’s entire criminal record, not just the non-violent offenses when considering them for parole.

The move should make a small dent in the state’s prison population. Oklahoma was the last state to require a governor’s signature on non-violent paroles.

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