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Suggestions made to Oklahoma Parole Board to open up commutation process

Listing inmates who are proposed for possible commutation is among the recommendations made by the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board's general counsel.
BY MICHAEL MCNUTT Modified: August 16, 2012 at 9:37 pm •  Published: August 17, 2012

Providing a list of inmates being considered for possible commutation is among several suggestions to the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board to shed more light on the process.

Steve Mullins, general counsel for the Parole Board, also is recommending board members evaluate how they determine risk factors in granting commutations or paroles and that they clarify the board's parole and commutation process to the public.

The board should update information on its website to explain early reviews and instances when a commutation might occur, he said in a letter sent to the agency's executive director and the board's chairman.

Board members also should add a statement to the agency's website to remind victims, district attorneys, offenders and offenders' families of their responsibility to send protest or support information to the governor's office if board members recommend a case for approval.

Mullins sent the letter after staff members of the agency and the governor's office met earlier this week to respond to concerns from Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater, who last week accused board members of violating the state Open Meeting Act because the board's meeting agendas did not list the offenders who were being brought up early for consideration of commutations.

Parole board members don't list the names of offenders proposed for commutation under the agenda item “docket modifications” at their monthly meetings; instead they bring the names up during that point of the meeting.

If three of the five members vote to consider any for commutation, the board schedules a hearing and lists their names as well as notifies prosecutors and victim family members who signed up for notification at least 20 days in advance.

Terry Jenks, executive director of the Parole Board, has said state law gives board members the authority to consider an offender “out of the normal processing procedure” with the concurrence of at least three members. That gives the board the authority to hear offenders on an earlier docket, he said.

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