Pardon and Parole Board plan would allow non-violent offenders chance for early release

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OKLAHOMA CITY -- Governor Mary Fallin has proposed a plan that could allow some of our state’s most violent offenders out of prison after serving the minimum time in exchange for good behavior.

It’s a plan to tackle overcrowding in our state prisons.

Now the Pardon and Parole Board has its own plan to help solve the problem.

Many inmates are first-time drug offenders, serving 10 to 15 years.

Now, they could be released after only 3 years.

They’re eligible to apply to have their sentences commuted under new requirements by the Pardon and Parole Board, in an effort to free up space behind bars.

“I definitely think it’s a step in the right direction. I don’t think it addresses all the issues we have in regards to prison overcrowding,” Defense Attorney Adam Banner said.

Some defense attorneys say punishments for drug offenders are especially harsh in Oklahoma.

 “I’ve had some cases where individuals who are convicted of crimes, either involving violence or use of a firearm, receive actually less time than individuals who face a first offense for drug trafficking,” Banner said.

The Pardon and Parole Board’s decision comes after our state’s Board of Corrections heard Governor Fallin’s proposal last month.

DOC officials say they’re still discussing her idea.

As for the Pardon and Parole Board’s plan, it’s pending approval from the attorney general.

“It's hard to gauge what the attorney general's office is going to do, but you have to hope at the end of the day they recognize that Oklahoma does have a severe overcrowding problem in its prisons, and you have to hope they are going to take steps to address that issue,” Banner said.

The Pardon and Parole Board also approved a couple of other ways offenders can seek commutation if they haven’t served the time they’ve been sentenced.

They can do that through recommendations from trial officials or by a request from the governor.

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