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Fewer Oklahoma inmates get parole since Fallin took office, records show

In Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin's first two years in office, the number of paroles granted to the state's inmates has dropped sharply. Last year, fewer than 500 were paroled. In 2004, while Brad Henry was in office, more than 2,000 inmates were paroled.
by Andrew Knittle Published: March 25, 2013

“Her priorities are to see that justice is served, everyone is treated equally and fairly, and those who are a danger to our communities stay behind bars,” Weintz said.

Jail backlog

The effect of the drop in paroles is hard to gauge, state Corrections Department spokesman Jerry Massie said. He said one of the more obvious effects is the prison system's ongoing struggle with county jail backlog.

Inmates sentenced to time in Oklahoma prisons, under the current system, are held in county jails until there's a place for them in a state facility. This can take a few weeks or several months, Massie said.

Once the inmates are sentenced, the state prison system takes over financial responsibility of the prisoners. Under state law, the Corrections Department pays $27 per day to house the inmate, plus any medical costs.

Last year, the state Corrections Department paid county jails $21,207,728 to house inmates awaiting transfer to a state prison, the most ever. In 2003, the agency paid just $7.4 million to county jails.

“With how full we are, it's almost like one bed opens up, there's someone to fill it ... so it's one out, one in, literally,” he said. “Fewer paroles, well, it backs up people in county jails. There's no other place for them to go.”

Massie said the agency is hopeful recent law changes, which take the governor out of the parole process for nonviolent offenders, will increase paroles.

“We're hoping that will speed up the process,” he said.

CONTRIBUTING: Tulsa World Staff Writer Barbara Hoberock

by Andrew Knittle
Investigative Reporter
Andrew Knittle has covered state water issues, tribal concerns and major criminal proceedings during his career as an Oklahoma journalist. He has won reporting awards from the state's Associated Press bureau and prides himself on finding a real...
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