Oklahoma finally limits governor's role in parole process
BY World's Editorials Writers
Saturday, November 10, 2012
11/10/12 at 3:06 AM
It took 60 years for things to change but with Tuesday's vote on State Question 762, voters finally limited the governor's role in handling paroles. The state's CEO no longer is required to sign off on paroles of certain nonviolent offenders.
Passage of the question amending the state Constitution was anything but a safe bet. Under pressure from the state's district attorneys, Gov. Mary Fallin withdrew her support for the measure last month. Oklahoma had remained the only state in the nation requiring the governor to sign off on all paroles.
Requests for release backed up. Many offenders eligible for parole remained in prison too long awaiting an answer and this backlog has cost the state millions of dollars.
District attorneys, including Tulsa County DA Tim Harris, have voiced concerns that members of the state Pardon and Parole Board are appointed, not elected, and therefore do not answer to the voters. The parole board now assumes the job of signing off on release of nonviolent offenders.
Harris is correct that Oklahoma has lost a layer of scrutiny by removing the governor from the process. But in all of those cases, the board already was reviewing the requests and making a recommendation to the governor about release. In most cases, the governor accepted that recommendation.
There are risks for release of inmates whether done by the parole board or by the governor. The board must work even harder to make sure that those requesting release are good candidates for freedom. It's also important that the Department of Corrections receives money to strengthen its probation staff so that inmates who are released can be monitored and held accountable for their actions for at least nine months after release.
No system is perfect, whether the governor or a parole board signs off on release. There are risks that an offender will re-offend. But the voters have spoken, weighing and balancing the risks, and said that it's time Oklahoma followed the example of 49 other states.
Original Print Headline: Parole process