(TMU) — A whopping 462 inmates in Oklahoma were released from prison this week, in the largest single-day mass commutation in U.S. history. All of the inmates who were released had been held in prison on charges for nonviolent crimes.
Steve Bickley, executive director of the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board, was among the panel that voted unanimously to set the prisoners free.
“With this vote, we are fulfilling the will of Oklahomans. However, from Day One, the goal of this project has been more than just the release of low-level, nonviolent offenders, but the successful re-entry of these individuals back into society,” Bickley said in a statement, according to NBC News.
The commutations were approved by Governor Kevin Stitt, a first-term Republican who surprisingly promised to help end mass incarceration during his campaign.
“This marks an important milestone of Oklahomans wanting to focus the state’s efforts on helping those with nonviolent offenses achieve better outcomes in life. The historic commutation of individuals in Oklahoma’s prisons is only possible because our state agencies, elected officials, and partnering organizations put aside politics and worked together to move the needle,” Stitt said.
The mass commutation was possible thanks to a series of events that began with a ballot measure in 2016, where Oklahoma voters approved a policy that would allow small-time drug possession charges and nonviolent property crimes to be changed to misdemeanors instead of felonies. After that policy was in place, Stitt signed a bill approving a fast track for commutation for people with these types of misdemeanor charges.
In addition to letting the inmates out of prison, the state is also giving them resources to help transition back into society. For example, all of the inmates released through this program receive help acquiring an ID or drivers license, which are needed to apply for jobs and housing.
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Posted by Christine Stanwood KOCO on Monday, November 4, 2019