N.Y.T.-Oklahoma Inmates Released
The United States has approximately 25% of the world’s inmates, although the U.S.A. has only 5% of the world’s population. We have had a mass incarceration crisis for several decades. There are several major reasons for this epidemic. We can look to the closing of mental health hospitals, harsh mandatory sentencing, bias against minorities, etc, for causing the incarceration epidemic.
Oklahoma Gov. Stitt made it a priority of his administration to reduce Oklahoma’s incarceration. When elected, Oklahoma had the highest incarceration rate in the United States. To accomplish this goal, he appointed reform-minded members to the state’s Pardon and Parole Board. Above, Gov. Stitt greeted an estimated 70 women, whose sentences were commuted at the Dr. Eddie Warrior Correctional Facility (women’s prison).
Three years ago, Oklahoma citizens voted to change felony drug possession and certain felony property crimes to misdemeanors, thereby reducing the sentences for these offenses. The new law was not applied to individuals already convicted of the felonies. The law was changed this year. The Oklahoma legislature voted to give inmates convicted under the former felonies, now misdemeanors,– the chance of having their sentences commuted and early release. To qualify for commutation, the inmate’s offenses were non-violent.
The Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board, on November 1, granted commutation to a total of 527 inmates, and 462 inmates were released yesterday, on November 4. According to the governor’s office, releasing the inmates, will save Oklahoma almost $12 million over the cost of continuing to keep the prisoners locked up.
During the last 10 years, American society has realized the devastating impact of mass incarceration upon individuals, inmate’s families, and our communities. We can hope other states follow the example set by Oklahoma.
By: Bradley Schwartz
Founder of prisonpath.com