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First inmates to come before Pardon and Parole Board under new law

The state Pardon and Parole Board will consider a group of inmates who qualify under a new, streamlined parole process.

A new type of streamlined parole will get its first test next week when the initial group of inmates eligible for the early release are considered by the Pardon and Parole Board.

The parole process, approved by the Legislature last year as part of criminal justice reform efforts, could also be a first measure of how much a board composed mostly of Gov. Kevin Stitt’s appointees will embrace changes intended to relieve Oklahoma’s overcrowded prisons. Stitt, who appointed three of the five board members after taking office in January, has made reducing the prison population a priority for his administration.

House Bill 2286, part of a slate of criminal justice reform measures passed last year, established what is called administrative parole. The truncated parole process cuts out two parts of standard parole: the pre-review investigation and the appearance before the board. It’s not automatic, however. The board still must approve the inmates. Typically, the Pardon and Parole Board approves parole for about a fifth or less of applicants.

“If you meet the five statutory requirements, we skip that part,” Justin Wolfe, general counsel for the board, said of the difference between standard and administrative parole.

Inmates who meet the requirements are automatically eligible. They must have served one-quarter to one-third of their sentences, depending on the date of their crime, and be “substantially compliant” with Department of Corrections case plans. They also must not receive a protest from a victim or prosecutor and not have misconduct infractions for at least six months – longer depending on the severity of the misconduct. Only nonviolent offenders are eligible. Regardless of the administrative parole outcome, inmates remain eligible for traditional parole consideration.

The Lawton Constitution

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