COMMUTATION

With members of the Pardon and Parole Board and members of Congress, Gov. Kevin Stitt speaks after a meeting of the Pardon and Parole Board where more than 500 Oklahoma prisoners were recommended for commutation on Nov. 1, 2019. It is believed to be the largest single day commutation in U.S. history.

MIKE SIMONS/Tulsa World file

Correction: This editorial originally referred to an incorrect number for a state question approved by voters four years ago. The error has been corrected.


Gov. Kevin Stitt continued his commitment to giving prisoners sentenced for simple drug possession a second chance by approving last week the releases for 147 inmates.

Stitt set a record last year with the approval of 527 sentence commutations in a single day, moving the state from No. 1 in the nation for incarceration to second place. It is expected to save $12 million a year.

Getting nonviolent offenders out of prison is the right move. It allows people to get help within their communities and focuses prisons on locking up serious criminals.

It strengthens the workforce, keeps families together and saves the state money.

These commutations are true to Stitt’s campaign pledge to prioritize criminal justice reform for the state. In this recent round, 119 received commutations to time served and another 28 to one year, according to The Oklahoman.

Voters started the process by approving State Questions 780 and 781 four years ago. Those initiatives reclassified petty drug and property crimes as misdemeanors. The Legislature subsequently made those changes retroactive.

Most of the commutations are for crimes that would now not receive a prison sentence.

The key to success for those being released is having education opportunities, job training, mental health resources and other social supports.

Commutations are only one part of the equation. Real reform begins with reducing the number of people going to prison in the first place.

Lawmakers must address the state’s mandatory court fees, fines, bail and driving restrictions for people in the criminal justice system.

We are pleased with the recent commutations and urge leaders to press forward with further reforms to reduce unsustainable mass incarceration in Oklahoma.


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