Oklahoma prosecutors want tougher clemency procedures for inmates
Prosecutors are upset because the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board repeatedly has considered early releases for inmates, even killers, who were not yet eligible for parole.
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Under their proposals, the governor then would decide whether or not to get a recommendation from the parole board before acting.
Murderers and other violent offenders would be required to have three written recommendations — from the current district attorney, the current county judge and the current sheriff or police chief from the city where the crime occurred.
“That's the deal. If it's a true miscarriage of justice, then you'll get those three signatures. If it's not, then you won't,” said Cleveland County District Attorney Greg Mashburn, president of the Oklahoma District Attorneys Association.
Other inmates would have to get two recommendations from “trial officials” to apply to the governor for clemency.
The governor would be required to immediately provide copies of any clemency application to the district attorney and the victim or victim's representatives.
Prosecutors acknowledge the changes would make commutations rare. Prosecutors insist that is the way it should be — an extraordinary remedy to undo an injustice that came to light after an inmate's conviction.
Prosecutors also want to block the parole board from bringing inmates up for parole early and from ignoring consecutive sentences. Prosecutors complain the board has considered some nonviolent offenders for parole before those offenders have served a third of their sentences.
The proposed restrictions would not prevent the board from voting for early release so that an inmate can be deported or on medical grounds when an inmate is near death.
Publicity about prosecution concerns sparked about three dozen citizens to complain to the parole board in late December and early January.
“I believe Oklahomans would rather pay more taxes than have these guys released early,” wrote Ray Brzozowski, of Altus. “Please don't do this. Our streets are dangerous enough with the ones who get off. Don't send them reinforcements.”
Attorney General Scott Pruitt also wants changes in the law because of his concerns about early releases.
Pruitt wants the parole board to be required to tell his office if it is considering early release for murderers and other violent inmates.
“I am very concerned that the parole process provides a meaningful opportunity for the victims of crime to be heard. Which is why I am asking to be notified,” he said.
Pruitt also said the parole board must have public safety as its paramount concern. “The parole process should not be used simply as a prison capacity management tool,” he said.
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