The Edmond Sun

Local News

October 8, 2012

State question may change parole process

EDMOND — EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the first in a series of stories detailing the six state questions on the Nov. 6 general election ballot.

State Question 762 modifies the power and authority of the governor and Pardon and Parole Board in the parole process for nonviolent offenders, according to the ballot. Nonviolent offenses would be defined by the Legislature, the ballot states.

It is one of six state questions on the Nov. 6 general election ballot.

“The measure authorizes the Pardon and Parole Board to recommend to the governor, but not to itself grant parole for persons convicted of certain offenses, specifically those offenses identified by law as crimes for which persons are required to serve not less than 85 percent of their sentence prior to being considered for parole and those designated by the Legislature as exceptions to nonviolent offenses,” the ballot states.

When law requires individuals to serve a minimum time of confinement prior to their consideration for parole, that period of confinement must be served before the Pardon and Parole Board may recommend parole, the ballot continues.

“It is unreal that the suggestion would be that the governor should be taken out of the process,” said state Rep. Jason Murphey, R-Guthrie. “The governor plays a very important role in determining whether or not the unelected Pardon and Parole Board is really acting in accordance with public safety.”

The accountability of the governor’s office is needed to stop inappropriate prisoner paroles or commuted sentences by the Pardon and Parole Board, Murphey said. The people of Oklahoma should be able to hold the governor accountable in decision making, said Murphey, chairman of the Oklahoma Integrated Justice Steering Committee.

“I will be calling that committee to order before long to look at ways the Pardon and Parole board’s case management system could be modernized,” Murphey said.

A modernized system would streamline information to the governor for allowing more records to be evaluated, Murphey said.

Without a governor’s oversight, citizens are left without a direct mechanism for holding an elected official accountable when a violent offender is released back into society, Murphey said.

“If I was the governor I would want to have more authority,” said state Rep. Lewis Moore, R-Edmond. “There’s not been an election of a parole board that I know of.”

House Speaker Kris Steele, R-Shawnee, and state Sen. Josh Brecheen, R-Coalgate, prompted SQ 762.

Gov. Mary Fallin’s staff said she is still considering her position in regard to this state question.

“Gov. Fallin is evaluating all the state questions with her legal and policy team and will announce her position on each of those ballot issues when that review is complete,” said Aaron Cooper, a Fallin spokesman.

TO LEARN MORE about Oklahoma state questions, go to https://www.sos.ok.gov/gov/proposed_questions.aspx.

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