Prison reform has been a hot-button issue for many politicians as well as celebrities such as Kanye West and Kim Kardashian. This week, politicians in Oklahoma made great strides in prison reform. For years, the state of Oklahoma has held the dubious honor of having the highest prisoner incarceration rate in the country. But on Monday, 462 inmates across Oklahoma were slated for released from prison in what the governor’s office calls the largest single-day mass commutation in the nation’s history.
Reducing the prison population was a key campaign issue for Oklahoma governor Kevin Stitt (R), a former mortgage company CEO who was elected in 2018.
In a series of tweets, Stitt wrote the following:
From day one, my administration’s goal of #HB1269 has been more than just the release of low level, non-violent offenders. It has been about changing the culture & process as we prepare to release individuals & to help set them up for success upon reentry into society.
The @OklaDOC, #OklaPPB, & District Attorneys conducted a very thorough review process to ensure those eligible for the #HB1269 docket are truly reflecting the intent of the law – to help non-violent, low-level offenders and to bring their sentencing time in line with today’s laws
The dramatic move came about as the result of House Bill 1269, a bill co-authored by Republican Representative Jon Echols and Democrat Representative Jason Dunnington, both of Oklahoma.
“We have so much opportunity in Oklahoma to do really big things, and there is no reason why we should let politics get in the way of that,” said Rep. Dunnington.
The governor’s office released another staggering figure: if all inmates had completed their sentences, it would have cost Oklahoma approximately $11.9 million.
Furthermore, local Oklahoma City media outlet Fox 25 points out that “in order to prepare for the release, the Department of Corrections held several transition fairs to connect inmates with organizations that would assist with housing, transportation, employment and health care.”
Of the 527 inmates recommended for commutation, 75 percent were male and 25 percent were female. The majority of the prisoners had been incarcerated for at least three years.