Controversial plan could allow state’s most violent offenders out of prison early

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OKLAHOMA CITY -- Oklahoma’s most violent criminals could get out of prison early under a new proposal from Governor Fallin.

Her policy will reward inmates for good behavior in exchange for less time behind bars.

Our state lawmakers have tried to push through similar legislation before and failed.

Now the governor is overriding their decision.

When the worst of the worst walk out of court -  rapists and murderers - they know they'll have to serve the majority of their sentence.

But after the governor's order, they could serve the minimum amount of time possible without ever having to go before the pardon and parole board.

It’s no secret our state prisons are overcrowded. Now the governor wants to shrink those numbers by rewarding good behavior in exchange for earlier release.

For instance, someone serving 20 years for rape who doesn’t cause trouble in prison could potentially walk out in 17 years with no parole officer keeping tabs on them.

“Well within 3 years, almost every offender that's been released without supervision is re-offending,” Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater said.

DA Prater is concerned the policy change will greatly affect public safety.

“We're talking about the worst population of offenders, those we've said they must serve 85 percent of their sentence because they are a danger to our community, yet what do we do? We kick them loose the day they hit 85 percent  without any kind of supervision on the street,” Prater said.

A bill that basically mirrors Fallin’s order has failed in the legislature more than once.

Some defense attorneys applaud the policy change.

“Anytime we can give the inmates an incentive to behave themselves, not be violent toward staff or other inmates, and they're somebody we know is going to get out eventually, it's always a good incentive. I think it's good public policy,” attorney David McKenzie said.

Fallin says her plan will help save some of the $485 million we spend housing inmates each year.

Others are doubtful.

“It's about saving money, supervising these offenders on their release is what's important because you will save the money you would've been paying for their subsequent incarceration that is very likely to occur,” Prater said.

The plan is expected to affect about 6,000 state prisoners.

The Board of Corrections will discuss the plan at their meeting this Thursday.

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