Hundreds of Oklahoma prisoners could be released Nov. 1

New law expands when certain nonviolent inmates can be put on ankle monitors to complete their sentences. Prosecutors are upset.
BY NOLAN CLAY nclay@opubco.com Published: October 9, 2011

“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.