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Letters from inmates prompt most early releases, former board member says

A former Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board member who recommended more inmates for early release over the last three years release than any other board member says the process of getting an inmate's name on the list for early consideration isn't as mysterious as it may seem.

by Randy Ellis Modified: August 13, 2012 at 4:13 pm •  Published: August 13, 2012

The governor has asked the board to review its agendas to make sure they give the public as much information as possible.

Loving said the same process has been used for at least the last couple decades, and interested persons were notified before final votes were taken on whether to recommend release of early consideration inmates.

Inmates seek relief

For thousands of Oklahoma prison inmates, the once obscure “docket modification” list is the Holy Grail.

It is the chance to be considered for early release before serving the amount of time and accumulating the number of good time credits normally required to attain parole consideration.

While some inmates have written letters to board members to get on the early release list, others have sought assistance.

In the case that sparked the current controversy, former Oklahoma County District Judge Leamon Freeman persuaded board member Richard Dugger to recommend a name to the early consideration list.

Freeman has said he wasn’t paid for his services.

Weighing the cases

Loving said she sometimes received similar requests from attorneys and occasionally from state legislators. Some of those requests were accepted and others rejected, depending on the inmate’s history, she said.

There are a few attorneys who make money off families of inmates by putting together packets of information for parole board members to consider — even in cases where the crimes were heinous and the inmates have virtually no chance of early release, she said.

“Those lawyers have zero credibility with me,” Loving said.

There are other, credible attorneys who see an inmate serving what they believe to be an unjust sentence and contact board members, she said.

How a board member reacts to such a request may depend on how much the board member trusts the attorney, she said. Loving said she tried to always give as much attention to inmates without attorneys as she did to those with attorneys.

Loving said she was always aware of her responsibility to keep the public safe and would reject any request she felt might jeopardize the public, regardless of who it came from. She said she also rejected any request from people who asked that she not reveal they had made the request.

Prater said Friday that he has problems with a system where who an inmate knows can make a difference in that inmate getting out early when other inmates who committed lesser, nonviolent crimes and have behaved well in prison remain behind bars because they don’t have connections.

by Randy Ellis
Investigative Reporter
For the past 30 years, staff writer Randy Ellis has exposed public corruption and government mismanagement in news articles. Ellis has investigated problems in Oklahoma's higher education institutions and wrote stories that ultimately led to two...
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