The Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board on Tuesday put off for months making changes to a procedure that so upset a prosecutor that he launched a criminal investigation.
No inmate will be considered for early parole or commutation, if ineligible for parole, until a new procedure is in place, officials said.
The criminal investigation is still under way, Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater confirmed Tuesday.
At issue are times when the board voted on recommendations that an inmate be considered for possible early parole or sentence commutation.
The district attorney told the board in August it had violated the state's Open Meeting Act because no notice was given to the public or prosecutors in those instances. He called the board procedure “a clear attempt to operate in secrecy, outside of public scrutiny.”
The board in November discussed changing the procedure so that the names of recommended inmates would be listed on public meeting agendas.
On Tuesday, the board's chairman, Marc Dreyer, announced the board would not take up changing that procedure again until May or early summer. He told The Oklahoman that he wants to provide enough time for everyone who has thoughts about the procedure to provide input.
“Early consideration is not a right. It's a privilege,” he told The Oklahoman. “And I think there are a lot of questions that are being asked by people in various quarters.”
Dreyer told other board members, “Part of why we're even considering revising our policy was because of a realization that we weren't doing it as clearly and effectively as we could do it and so we stopped.”
Five inmates whose early release requests were pending will have to be reconsidered once the policy is changed, officials said.
The board Tuesday also asked for public comment on proposed policy changes dealing with State Question 762. The board plans to vote on the policy changes in January.
The state question — approved by voters in November — removes the governor from the parole process for nonviolent offenders. The governor no longer has any say on whether nonviolent offenders are paroled. The governor still has the final say on violent offenders.
The proposals are posted on the board's website at www.ppb.state.ok.us.
Comments can be mailed to Tracy George, General Counsel, Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board, First National Center, 120 N Robinson Ave., Suite 900W, Oklahoma City, OK 73102.
Comments also can be emailed to Tracy.firstname.lastname@example.org. Comments must be received by 5 p.m. Jan. 4.