OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Dozens of Oklahoma inmates have been granted parole since the process was streamlined last year to reduce prison costs.
The Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board agreed to discharge all but a few of the 73 nonviolent offenders registered on the state’s new administrative parole docket, The Oklahoman reported.
Under the 2018 law, the inmates must serve at least one-fourth of their sentence and follow standards of their parole. The new parole process disqualifies anyone convicted of a violent crime, a felony sex crime or a crime punishable by death or life without the possibility of parole.
For qualifying inmates, the streamlined method replaces a pre-review investigation and appearance before the parole board, which are part of the usual parole process.
Administrative parole will free up around 3,750 prison beds and roughly $16.7 million per year once fully implemented, according to an analysis conducted by the state House.
The five-member board will alert the state Department of Corrections of those granted parole. Those authorized should be paroled within weeks.
The decision comes despite Oklahoma’s top prosecutors resisting efforts for more prison alternatives.
Adam Luck, a new addition to the parole board, told the newspaper he was struck by “the emotional toll on individuals who’ve been affected by crime,” and the “sheer amount of cases.”
Parole discharges dropped to 77 percent between 2008 and 2017, according to the think tank Oklahoma Policy Institute. But between 2016 and 2018, the state increased parole rates for nonviolent offenders, from 27 percent to 33 percent.
The Oklahoma Policy Institute said it was encouraged by the board’s vote on parole.
“We’re a few days in, but based on what we’ve seen so far, these are very promising parole rates,” said Damion Shade,a criminal justice analyst with Oklahoma Policy Institute. “So much of what we’re seeing in Oklahoma is an attempt to catch up.”