Allegations against Oklahoma parole board demand serious attention

by The Oklahoman Editorial Board Modified: August 9, 2012 at 11:41 am •  Published: August 10, 2012

Prater's digging found that board members had been using a secret parole docket. Members could ask that an inmate be placed on it, and if three members agreed, that inmate would be considered for early release.

One troubling piece of this story is the attitude of board member Richard Dugger. Prater found that it was Dugger who asked that the DUI manslaughter case be given early consideration. When he asked Dugger about it, he was told that “the board had the power to consider anyone they want,” Prater says. House Speaker Kris Steele also contacted Dugger about the case after learning of it and says he was essentially told to take a hike.

That sort of flippancy could resonate with voters in November when they will decide whether to remove the governor from the parole process for nonviolent offenders. Oklahoma is the only state whose governor must approve every parole. We have long argued for this change, and believe it's still a good idea — provided the board follows the letter of the law, all the time. More potential fallout: If Prater's allegations are proven true, some paroled inmates could be returned to prison to finish serving their time.

The governor and attorney general need to stay on top of this case. If an investigation finds Prater is right, then immediate personnel changes to the board must follow. The work of the Pardon and Parole Board must be beyond reproach.

by The Oklahoman Editorial Board
The Oklahoman Editorial Board consists of Gary Pierson, President and CEO of The Oklahoma Publishing Company; Christopher P. Reen, president and publisher of The Oklahoman; Kelly Dyer Fry, editor and vice president of news; Christy Gaylord...
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