Editorial: Parole board faces new role after SQ 762 passes
BY World's Editorials Writers
Wednesday, November 14, 2012
11/14/12 at 2:48 AM
Oklahoma voters - with their passage of State Question 762 - have spoken. In a few weeks, the governor no longer will handle parole requests from nonviolent offenders. That responsibility instead will fall entirely on the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board.
This is not new territory for that board, which in the past made recommendations for parole to the governor. The board announced this week that it will seek input from the public and prosecutors on how to implement the constitutional amendment. The board hopes to have a policy in place no later than January. This would allow at least 30 days for public comments. In the meantime, Gov. Mary Fallin will continue to handle all parole requests.
As the board transitions to its expanded role, it must focus on transparency and accountability to the public. The board appears to have been trying to do that; the Office of Management and Enterprise Services is revamping the board's website, and monthly dockets will be made easier for the public to search and understand.
Board Chairman Marc Dreyer admits that the board has not been perfect in its communication efforts. It must correct that impression. With its expanded role, it is more answerable to the public than ever.
Earlier this year, Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater accused the board of "deceptive" practices when placing inmates on a list for early parole consideration without proper advance notice under Oklahoma's Open Meeting Act. In spite of an investigation of board actions, criticism from state prosecutors and the governor's decision not to support SQ 762, voters still passed the constitutional amendment.
The board has an opportunity to show that it is in the best position to judge whether an offender is ready for release and whether that offender represents a public safety risk. Most other states rely on their pardon and parole boards to sign off on parole requests. No system is perfect. But the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board needs to go out of its way in the future to earn the confidence of prosecutors and, most importantly, the public.
Original Print Headline: Transparency