An inmate in a high-profile case spent much of Tuesday on a prison bus, as officers drove her from Oklahoma City to Taft and then back, because of confusion over her parole status.
The inmate, Patricia Spottedcrow, is a young mother whose 12-year prison term for a $31 marijuana deal attracted national attention and calls for sentencing reforms.
“It was a big mess,” her attorney, Laura Deskin, said of the confusion. “She was really scared. She didn't know what was going on.”
A judge last year reduced Spottedcrow's term to eight years and the Pardon and Parole Board in April recommended she be paroled. The governor agreed but required her to spend 120 days in a work-release program at a community corrections facility first.
Her parole status became confused after Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater complained the Pardon and Parole Board violated the Open Meeting Act when it first considered her and 49 other inmates.
Prater accused the board of failing to properly notify the public what inmates the board was considering at a stage of its meetings known as docket modifications. The prosecutor has not filed criminal charges.
Spottedcrow, 27, was transferred July 24 from the Eddie Warrior Correctional Center in Taft to the Hillside Community Correctional Center in Oklahoma City to complete the governor's stipulation, Corrections Department spokesman Jerry Massie said.
Over the weekend, she was held in a segregated detention area at the community center after corrections officials decided to move her back to the minimum-security facility in Taft. Officials acted after learning her status had been changed to parole recommendation withdrawn.
“Sometimes they don't want to go back to higher security, and they might run off,” Massie said of her being held in detention.
Her attorney said, “She was ... in a room, in isolation, and she was being fed through a little slot there like somebody who had gotten in trouble. ... We still don't know exactly how this happened but ... somehow the Pardon and Parole Board changed her status. ... Somebody's sitting on a computer somewhere doing something and they're affecting people's lives.”
Tuesday, Spottedcrow was sent by bus to the prison in Taft. She was sent back to the Hillside facility in Oklahoma City the same day, though, after corrections officials learned her parole status had been changed again — to parole recommendation suspended.
Her attorney said she had to contact the governor's office Wednesday to clear up that Spottedcrow still could begin working — at a restaurant — while at the Hillside facility.
Six other inmates also have had their early release recommendations suspended, parole board Deputy Director J.D. Daniels said.
Prater was critical of the board again Wednesday, questioning how the statuses of the seven inmates could be changed without a public vote by the Pardon and Parole Board. He said his criminal investigation will include how the status changes were done.
The chairwoman of the Pardon and Parole Board agreed to a moratorium on certain early releases after Prater first made his accusations this month, Daniels said.
The chairwoman acted at the request of the governor and no board vote was taken, he said.
The governor's office said Wednesday: “Governor Fallin asked for a moratorium on early release cases out of an abundance of caution. The implementation of the moratorium was left up to the Pardon and Parole Board, which determined the parameters of the moratorium. The board expanded the parameters of the moratorium to include cases acted on by the governor.”