A new Oklahoma law intended to reduce the state's overwhelming prison population took effect last November, but it wasn't until this month that the law had any real effect.
House Bill 2286 created an administrative parole process that would make certain Oklahoma inmates eligible for parole without a hearing. Under this law, inmates must have served a specified percentage of their sentence, depending on when they were sentenced for the crime, in order to be considered for administrative parole. In general, they must have served at least one-fourth to one-third of the sentence. Additionally, they must meet the following criteria in order to be considered for administrative parole:
1. The person has substantially complied with the requirements of the case plan established pursuant to Section 512 of this title;
2. A victim, as defined in Section 332.2 of this title, or the district attorney speaking on behalf of a victim, has not submitted an objection;
3. The person has not received a primary class X infraction within two (2) years of the parole eligibility date;
4. The person has not received a secondary class X infraction within one (1) year of the parole eligibility date; or
5. The person has not received a class A infraction within six(6) months of the parole eligibility date.
Under this new law, the Oklahoma Department of Corrections sent a list of 138 potential administrative parolees to the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board; however, several were found to be disqualified under one or more of the above criteria. That left 73 remaining potential administrative parolees.
On March 13, the Parole Board took advantage of the streamlined process and approved the parole of 73 inmates.
According to Justin Wolf, counsel for the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board, the new process cuts out two lengthy steps: pre-review investigation and appearance before the Board. If the inmates meet all of the specified qualifications, those to steps in the standard parole process are eliminated. However, if an inmate is denied administrative parole, he or she may still go through the standard parole process. Wolf notes that the administrative parole process will not ever leave someone worse off than he or she was originally in terms of parole acceptance or denial.
House Bill 2286 also created a new parole process for aging prisoners (aged 60+) who have not been convicted of a sex crime or violent crime, who have served the shorter of 10 years or one-third of the sentence, and who pose no significant threat to the public if released.
Oklahoma's new criminal justice reform laws are intended to remedy overly harsh penalties and to reduce the prison population in a state with one of the highest incarceration rates in the nation.