Oklahoma corrections officials say they are preparing to put as many as 250 to 300 inmates in ankle monitors and release them.
Prosecutors throughout the state are upset.
The inmates, convicted of nonviolent offenses, are set to be released starting Nov. 1. That is when a new law intended to relieve prison overcrowding goes into effect. The law changes when certain nonviolent inmates become eligible for ankle monitors.
“I suspect that many — if not most — of the legislators that voted for this didn't realize it was going to have the result of releasing several hundred inmates on Nov. 1,” said Michael Fields, district attorney for Blaine, Canadian, Garfield, Grant and Kingfisher counties.
“I have a hard time
House Speaker Kris Steele, R-Shawnee, said the goal actually is to increase public safety.
He said the change will put more low-risk, mostly female inmates into the successful electronic monitoring program so corrections officials can focus their limited resources on inmates who are truly threats to society.
Prosecutors are concerned because some nonviolent offenders under the new law will be eligible for ankle monitors after 90 days of incarceration.
Currently, in general, no nonviolent inmate is eligible for an ankle monitor until he gets down to the last 11 months of his
Prosecutors said Friday public confidence in sentences will be undermined if quick releases start
“Then, I will stop sending people to prison for less than five years,” said Greg Mashburn, district attorney for Cleveland, Garvin and McClain counties. “I mean, I'll have no choice. If I intended them to go to prison, I intended them to stay for more than 90 days. I will absolutely adjust what I'm doing on my cases so this isn't
Mashburn said ankle monitors haven't worked well in his counties. He recalled three instances where offenders on ankle monitors committed crimes.
“Ankle monitors, it's not the great answer. ... A lot of people think, ‘Well, if they're on an ankle monitor, we can stop them from committing crimes.' All we're going to be able do is know where they were when they were committing the crime,” Mashburn said.
Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater said he worries whether the overburdened and underfunded Corrections Department will have enough officers to keep track of the hundreds of new inmates on ankle monitors.
“It's almost impossible for them to adequately supervise even people on probation,” Prater said. “There's no way that the Department of Corrections has the capability to adequately supervise those prisoners on ankle monitors and assure the public that they will be kept safe.”
Monitors are ‘controlled'
Corrections Department Director Justin Jones said few inmates will get ankle monitors after only 90 days. Most will need more time.
“It would be the exception and not the rule,” Jones said. “Some needs are going to have to be addressed … before we put them into a re-entry program. … Rational behavior training, substance abuse, anger management, parenting skills, fatherhood skills, those kinds of things.”
Corrections officials originally came up with a list of 1,133 nonviolent offenders already serving sentences to be considered for ankle monitors because of the new law.
The original list included burglars, drug offenders, embezzlers, drunken drivers and thieves.
Officials have been eliminating from that list inmates who do not qualify for ankle monitors for other reasons, such as they have no suitable residences where they can go.
Prosecutors say they have been told as many as 600 inmates will get ankle monitors Nov. 1. But the Corrections Department director said the list is now down to around 400 and will probably be cut down to 250 to 300.
“We consider it a very successful re-entry program,” Jones said. “And it is controlled. And it is custody because of the devices and the supervision by an officer.”
The director said more than 90 percent of the females who get ankle monitors succeed and 86 percent of the males do.
Steele said, “It's a very monitored, highly supervised program. It's not that these people are released back into the community without any sort of oversight or accountability or supervision.”
About 450 convicts already are on ankle monitors, a Corrections Department spokesman said.
Their movements are tracked by GPS.
The House speaker and Corrections Department director both said most of the inmates who will be getting ankle monitors Nov. 1 are already in halfway houses and other community correction centers. Steele said he understands more officers have been hired to track their movements.
“I really do think it's much ado about nothing,” Steele said of prosecutors' concerns.