Oklahoma Pardon And Parole Board Prepares To Commute Hundreds Of Sentence Under New Law

Wednesday, September 18th 2019, 5:35 pm
By: Dana Hertneky

New sentencing reform measures take effect in Oklahoma November 1. And now, the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board has some better numbers about how many prisoners will be impacted. 

Michelle McNutt has spent the last five years in prison for drug charges. On Wednesday, September 18 she was in front of the pardon and parole board asking them to commute her sentence. And they did.

“She felt like she served five years, she changed her way of thinking and wanted to get out and get a second chance at a new life,” said her mother Sharon after the hearing.

McNutt’s convictions were all charges that are affected by the new law, but right now the pardon and parole board has to hear each case individually.  

Steven Bickley, the executive director of pardon and parole, said there are currently about 4,000 inmates in Oklahoma prisons who are serving time for simple possession. For about 800 of them, possession is the only charge. A change in the law will allow the pardon and parole board to commute their sentences all at once.

“If you’re eligible and you’re on the docket, they can vote for it in aggregate, so it becomes a more efficient and effective way to administer justice,” explained Bickley.

Bickley said since the board and the Oklahoma Department of Corrections has worked ahead, those inmates could be home for the holidays.

“We’ve done all the prework necessary,” he said. “So, we can hear it on the first of November and not only that, the DOC will be ready and having done the work. So, inmates that are eligible to be released, could be released and home with their families by early November.”

The next priority will be those who have possession charges that are the longest part of their sentences. Bickley said there's about 600 prisoners in that category.

There are 2,100 prisoners who are doing time for drug possession, but that isn’t the longest part of their sentence. They will not be impacted by the reforms.