The Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board is considering a major policy change because of accusations inmates for years were brought up for possible early release with no notice to the public.
The board briefly discussed the proposal Tuesday and will take it up again in December. The board plans to vote on the proposal in January after getting public comment.
The proposal is the latest move by the board to be more open and transparent since Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater launched a criminal investigation of board actions.
The investigation is still under way.
At issue in the investigation are instances where a board member recommended an inmate be placed on a future docket for possible early parole or sentence commutation.
The board for years voted on those recommendations during the part of meetings described on board agendas as docket modifications. At least three board members had to agree for an inmate to move forward. No notice was given to the public who was being recommended.
The proposed policy change would require the names of inmates in those instances to be put on meeting agendas. All agendas are public records and posted on the board's website.
“This language may be revised at any time by the board after they review (it) and after public comment so it cannot be considered what the board will do at this time,” the board's general counsel, Tracy George, told The Oklahoman. “The language is a draft only and as such is only suggested language.”
Prater, in a scathing Aug. 8 letter, accused the board of deliberately disregarding Oklahoma's Open Meeting Act.
“The Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board's violations in this matter are egregious, aggravated and a clear attempt to operate in secrecy, outside of public scrutiny,” he wrote.
Prater specifically complained about 50 inmates voted on during docket modifications since 2010. “Outside of board members, no person had the ability to determine what inmate would or could be the next fortunate soul to emerge from the darkness of the ‘Docket Modification' portion of the board's business with an ... opportunity to attain an early ... release,” he wrote.
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