More than 400 inmates in Oklahoma will be released Monday after a law signed this year retroactively reduced the sentences for individuals who committed low-level crimes.
The Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board approved the commutation of 462 inmates unanimously, and on Friday, Gov. Kevin Stitt’s office has processed the recommendations for final approval. It is the largest mass commutation — or reduction of a sentencing — in U.S. history since President Barack Obama released 330 federal prisoners on his last day of office.
In 2016, referendums passed in Oklahoma made simple drug possession a misdemeanor instead of a felony and raised the threshold of felony property crimes — including theft, vandalism, shoplifting and robbery — up to $1,000. Earlier this year, Stitt signed a law that would apply these changes retroactively for current inmates.
“This event is another mark on our historic timeline as we move the needle in criminal justice reform, and my administration remains committed to working with Oklahomans to pursue bold change that will offer our fellow citizens a second chance while also keeping our communities and streets safe,” Stitt said in a statement Friday.
The board considered 814 eligible cases, and 527 were recommended for a lesser penalty given the severity of those crimes. Sixty-five of those individuals are still held on detainers.
“With this vote, we are fulfilling the will of Oklahomans,” said Steven Bickley, the executive director of the Pardon and Parole Board. “However, from day one, the goal of this project has been more than just the release of low level, non-violent offenders, but the successful reentry of these individuals back into society.”
Oklahoma will save nearly $12 million by releasing these low-level offenders, as opposed to keeping them incarcerated.
Contributing: The Associated Press. Follow Joshua Bote on Twitter: @joshua_bote