Suggestions made to Oklahoma Parole Board to open up commutation process

Listing inmates who are proposed for possible commutation is among the recommendations made by the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board's general counsel.
BY MICHAEL MCNUTT mmcnutt@opubco.com Modified: August 16, 2012 at 9:37 pm •  Published: August 17, 2012
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Prater also accused the board of considering parole for ineligible inmates. He said the state's “truth in sentencing law” passed by lawmakers requires that at least 85 percent of inmates' sentences be served before parole is possible. He told board members Tuesday they could commute “85 percent offenders,” but it violates the will of the Legislature.

Mullins in his letter to Jenks and Parole Board Chairman Lynnell Harkins said his office “continues to assert” that the state constitution gives board members the authority to recommend commutations of all offenses, including death sentences, life without parole and 85 percent crimes.

“This office also maintains any alleged failure by the Pardon and Parole Board to comply with the Open Meeting Act was inadvertent and not willful,” he wrote.

Mullins said he believes the board's policies and practices can be improved and clarified to the public.

Jenks earlier this week asked the state attorney general's office to issue an opinion on the board's authority to commute the sentences of inmates, including those sentenced for 85 percent crimes.

If the board recommends commutation, which is the governor's ability to shorten or modify prison sentences, it's up to the governor to grant it, according to the state constitution.

Certain felony convictions of violent crimes, including murder and manslaughter, carry the requirement that an offender serve at least 85 percent of the sentence before becoming eligible for parole. Jenks has said state laws don't prohibit the board from granting commutation to inmates sentenced under the 85 percent law.

Pardon and Parole Board members have said no one who was convicted of an 85 percent crime has been considered for or granted parole before eligibility, but a few 85 percent convicts were considered for commutation.

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