Oklahoma recently began a new way to parole inmates in its prison system.
In 2018, the Legislature approved House Bill 2286 among a host of criminal justice reform measures, reported the Oklahoma Watch.
They established it as what they called administrative parole, rather than the traditional way of paroling, according to the article.
“If you meet the five statutory requirements, we skip that part,” said Justin Wolfe, general counsel for the Pardon and Parole Board. Wolfe is referring to the process where inmates have had to appear in front of the board and then undergo a pre-review investigation before the board members approve them. The new “truncated” parole process cuts out those two parts, said the article.
Eligible inmates must have served one-quarter to one- third of their sentences, and they must be “substantially compliant” with Department of Corrections case plans, the Oklahoma Watch said.
Oklahoma has standard requirements that are similar to those implemented by California’s Proposition 57 in 2017. Proposition 57, which was passed by California voters in 2016, allows California inmates to earn good time credits that will shorten their prison or jail time by significant margins. Both nonviolent and violent offenders capitalize on the bills.
Oklahoma’s bill took effect on Nov. 1, 2018, and a list of eligible inmates was recommended to the board the following month. The initial list of 138 was eventually reduced to 74.
The board approved one- third of nonviolent offenders in Oklahoma in 2018, an increase from the 27% approved two years prior.
The new approach is draw- ing skepticism from criminal justice policy analysts on whether it will work or not. Damion Shade, an analyst with the Oklahoma Policy Institute, is taking a “wait- and-see” approach, said the article.
“I think the biggest issue with the administrative pa- role part of the process is that it began in November of last year…Those individuals who came into the system before November 1 don’t have ac- cess to the remedy of administrative parole,” Shade said.
Wolfe disagrees. Unlike California’s Prop. 57, the administrative parole of Oklahoma is retroactive. This means that the time inmates served before the law went into effect would count toward eligibility, he said.