“It amounts to torture,” OK death row inmates to move out of solitary confinement, death penalty debate continues

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OKLAHOMA CITY - Forty-seven inmates sit on Oklahoma's death row, and now some of them will get to move out of solitary confinement.

In a letter from the Department of Corrections to the ACLU, state leaders agreed to move death row inmates out of solitary confinement within 30 days.

"That's because it amounts to torture," ACLU attorney Megan Lambert said.

Lawyers at the ACLU are also working to reinstate religious services on death row.

"It did a lot for the morale and the environment down there. They said they prayed for the facility and noticed a drastic change once those services ended," Lambert said.

Meanwhile, a new effort to end the death penalty will spread through the halls of the state capitol this spring.

Representative Jason Dunnington announced Thursday that he'll introduce a bipartisan bill to end the practice in Oklahoma.

But work continues on a new protocol at the attorney general's office.

Attorney General Mike Hunter told News 4 in March that he was close to getting a nitrogen gas mask - the new method announced in March 2018.

"Manufacturers are concerned that there's going to be negative reaction," Hunter said.

In September 2015, Oklahoma's long history of executions unraveled when the execution of two inmate made headlines worldwide because officials had the wrong drugs.

While executions remain on hold to this day, the legal battle will continue when lawmakers return to 23rd and Lincoln.

"Our constitutional rights were not written for just the best of us," Lambert said.

Not all death row inmates will qualify to be removed from solitary confinement.

In their letter to the ACLU, officials at the Department of Corrections said they'd look at other changes to privileges if this plan goes smoothly.

News 4 asked the AG's office Thursday about the progress of the new execution protocol.

A spokesperson said there's no update.

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