On the one-year anniversary of Governor Kevin Stitt’s inauguration, Gov. Stitt announced today he signed 62 commutations, 93 pardons and 23 paroles, bringing the total signed during his first year to 774 commutations, 290 pardons and 101 paroles.

“This has been a historic year for criminal justice reform in Oklahoma,” said Gov. Stitt. “Under new leadership in the Oklahoma Department of Corrections and at the Pardon and Parole Board, the Board’s favorable recommendations increased by 225% over last year. I applaud everyone’s hard work and thorough management of a significant increase in casework without needing additional funds. The most impactful changes come when the right leaders are in place in state agencies, operating with a shared vision. My administration remains committed to pursuing bold changes in criminal justice reform over the next few years, to include reforming the criminal code and changing the culture in state prisons to help people return as productive members of society.”

On November 1, 2019, Gov. Stitt signed the largest single-day commutation in U.S. history, commuting the sentence of 523 non-violent, low-level offenders that were recommended by the Pardon and Parole Board under the HB 1269 docket.

This historic commutation docket was the result of months-long collaboration between the Governor’s Office, the Department of Corrections, the Pardon and Parole Board, non-profit volunteers and other state agencies. On November 4, 2019, Gov. Stitt and First Lady Sarah Stitt greeted the 55 women at the Eddie Warrior Correctional Facility that were released through the HB 1269 docket.

With the leadership of the Governor’s Office, Pardon and Parole Board, and dozens of nonprofits, the Oklahoma Department of Corrections also held its first-ever transition fairs for inmates at 28 facilities across the state. More than 200 people from 45 community partners, nonprofits and state agencies attended the fairs to help provide inmates with the support and resources needed in order to successfully reintegrate into society. These fairs connected 781 inmates with information and tools to help them prepare to leave the criminal justice system and return to their families and friends.

Additional criminal justice reform highlights from Gov. Stitt’s first year in office include:

• Invested in drug courts and diversion programs in the FY 20 budget.

• Reformed in the FY 20 budget how District Attorney Offices are funded so they are not reliant on high fines, fees and court costs.

• Called for and signed into law HB 1373, implementing licensing reform to help remove a major barrier for former offenders to access work opportunities.

• Called for and signed HB 1269, approving an expedited commutation process to release offenders currently incarcerated on low level drug possession crimes or any other felony that would now be considered a misdemeanor due to changes in law.

• Provided correctional officers with a $2 per hour pay increase.

• Issued EO 2019-41 to address the crises of contraband cellphones in state prisons across Oklahoma.

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E-mail lindsey.chastain@skiatookjournal.com

Managing Editor

Lindsey is the managing editor for the Skiatook Journal. She holds an M.A in English from the University of Central Oklahoma. Prior to the start of her news career in 2011, Renuard was a professor of English at the University of Central Oklahoma.