Oklahoma: Mass Release of Over 450 Prison Inmates

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) -
Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt speaks following the release of 70 inmates from the Eddie Warrior Correctional Center on Monday – part of the largest single-day mass commutation in U.S. history. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)

More than 450 inmates walked out the doors of prisons across Oklahoma on Monday as part of what state officials say is the largest single-day mass commutation in U.S. history.

The release of inmates, all with convictions for low-level property and contraband crimes, resulted from a bill signed by new Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt. The bill retroactively applied misdemeanor sentences for low-level property crimes and contraband possession that state voters approved in 2016.

Stitt has made reducing Oklahoma’s highest-in-the-nation incarceration rate one of his top priorities and has appointed reform-minded members to the state’s Pardon and Parole Board.

Releasing the inmates will save Oklahoma an estimated $11.9 million over the cost of continuing to keep them behind bars, according to the governor’s office.

The board last week considered 814 cases and recommended 527 inmates for commutation. However, 65 are being held on detainers, leaving about 462 inmates to be released on Monday.

Steve Bickley, the new executive director of the Pardon and Parole Board, said Monday’s release is the most on a single day, surpassing President Barack Obama’s 2017 commutation of the sentences of 330 federal prisoners on his last day in office.