Gov. Fallin recommends changes at Oklahoma Parole Board
BY BARBARA HOBEROCK World Capitol Bureau
Thursday, August 16, 2012
OKLAHOMA CITY -- Gov. Mary Fallin's office made recommendations to the state Pardon and Parole Board in the wake of criticism from Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater.
Prater accused the board of violating the Open Meetings Act, which board members deny.
He also accused the board of illegally commuting the sentences of those required to serve 85 percent of a sentence. He later said the board was within its legal power to recommend a commutation, but it went against the will of the people and the Legislature.
His office is conducting a criminal investigation into his allegations of Open Meetings Act violations.
At issue is whether proper notice was given on board agendas to let the public know what action the board might take when considering bringing up offenders early for parole or a possible reduction in a sentence.
Board officials have said no violations occurred, but the process could be improved.
Board members and administrators on Monday met with the governor's staff.
On Thursday, Fallin's office released a series of recommendations. Among those were the creation of a separate commutation docket, something which has been done in the past.
In a Wednesday letter to the board, Steve K. Mullins, Fallin's general counsel, recommended that the board clarify its parole and commutation process for the public.
"This includes updating information on the board's website to explain early review and instances when a commutation might occur, clarifying early release language on the Board's agenda, and ensuring that terminology on the website is clear and consistent," the letter states.
He recommended notifying interested parties of their responsibility to forward protest or support information to Fallin's office if the board recommends a case for approval.
He also suggested simplifying the searchable database online to allow the public to use a central search engine to locate which docket and offender's case has been placed on.
The letter said Fallin's office believes the board is within its power to commute sentences, including death, life without parole and those of offenders required o serve 85 percent of the sentence for crimes ranging from rape to murder.
"This office also maintains any alleged failure by the Pardon and Parole board to comply with the Open Meetings Act was inadvertent and not willful," the letter said.