OKLAHOMA CITY — Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin has approved commutation requests for 21 non-violent offenders.
The 21, whose names were read off one-by-one Wednesday by the governor, made it to the final step in a three-stage process by receiving a favorable vote from at least a simple majority of the five-member Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board.
"We can keep people who are dangerous to society locked up, for those who have addiction issues that are non-violent, low-level offenders, there's a better way of doing this in our nation," Fallin said. "On a personal note, this is just me saying this but, as we prepare for the Christmas holiday season, let's not forget there is a God of second chances."
Those being assisted through the commutation campaign are serving 10 years or longer for crimes that now carry lesser punishments following recent reforms approved by voters and legislators.
One of those was Juanita Peralta. Her daughter, Destiny Pinon, told News 4 that her mother was serving a 15-year sentence after she was arrested for a DUI while in a drug court program.
Peralta has served about two years of her sentence in Taft, Oklahoma.
"It’s unreal. I mean, it’s a good unreal feeling," Pinon said. "When they said her name, it was just a rush of emotions."
Pinon, now 21, said she had to grow up faster than most young women her age to care for her younger siblings.
"There was a lot of things that my friends were doing that I couldn’t do because I had a job to do and I did to have to quit going to school to take care of them," she said. "My mom taught me a lot of things, and one of the things she said was, no matter what happens, to try your hardest, and you keep going and you don’t give up, so that’s what I did for her."
The 21 offenders were sentenced to a cumulative 349 years of incarceration. Wednesday’s action shaved 306 years off those incarcerated.
Richard Quillen, along with other parents and family members, was able to break the news over the phone to his daughter, Peyton Quillen. She had been serving time in Tulsa for a drug-related offense.
"Governor Mary Fallin just signed your release papers and, as of this moment, you are a free woman," Richard told his daughter over the phone. "Okay, I love you."
Edmond resident Alyshea Rains, the mother of commuted offender Alexis Rains, told News 4 that the past two years without her daughter has been nothing short of tough.
Alexis, now 24, was sentenced to 10 years for drug possession. She will return home to her now 5-year-old daughter.
"She’s real smart. She’s real together. She’s taking really well," Alyshea said, speaking of her young granddaughter.
News 4 spoke with Kayla Jeffries on Wednesday moments after she was released from the Kate Barnard Correctional Center. Her 20-year sentence was commuted after she was arrested for drug infractions at the age of 18.
Jeffries served two and a half years at Mabel Bassett Correctional Center and six months at the Kate Barnard Correctional Center.
“It’s surreal. I’m praising God. I’m thanking God every step I take,” she said. “I had my youngest daughter at Mabel Bassett, so I haven’t really had any bonding or or one on one time with her so I’m really looking forward to that and to just being a good mom and telling my story.”
Next Wednesday, the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board will consider sending eight more commutation applicants to the governor.
Commuted individuals on Wednesday:
- Pamela Belk
- William Bentley
- Bonita Buffalohead
- Jamie Burke
- Louisa Charcoal
- Teresa Danley
- Johnna Davidson
- Olivia Harjo
- Kayla Jeffries
- Colleen Johnson
- Wanda Lee
- Lauren Mitchell
- Juanita Peralta
- Krystel Phillips
- Peyton Quillin
- Alexis Rains
- Tracy Smallwood
- Gina Wheeler
- Katara Wheeler
- Sharron Willis
- Felicia Witherspoon