Oklahoman, Jarred Smith has been working on this criminal justice reform for years. Here's his announcement:
"Man I'm so happy I could just cry, been fighting back tears all day. I have been so lucky to have had the opportunity to be a part of a very special commutation project. For the past 5 months I have worked for Tulsa County Public Defender's Office along with Oklahomans for Criminal Justice Reform working to commute the sentences of inmates who are serving 10 20 30 plus years for a simple drug possession crime.
Today we had 23 clients go up for commutation in front of the parole board and 22 of them were granted and are now on their way to the governor's desk to be signed. I got to speak and Advocate on behalf of my clients to the parole board. It was such an amazing experience. Today, we changed lives. What an amazing experience, what a great feeling. I watched so many mothers, fathers, sons and daughters cry tears of joy today bc a loved one might be home in time for thanksgiving now. Wow, what a day."
Oklahoma voters made it clear in 3 different state questions that possession of drugs is not a felony. They said that twice in 2016, and again in June of this year. Illegal drug distribution and associated theft or violence is still a very serious felony; but a person with an ounce of pot might just be a responsible and very sick person who is actually using drug treatments that the doctors concur upon, yet cannot prescribe.
The recommendations of the parole board members vary. Some wanting the convict to go free on a declaration of sufficient time served; but others want the sentences only adjusted down to where the individual can be eligible for an ordinary parole hearing before the board.
General counsel for the Pardon and Parole Board, Justin Wolf said; "Fallin does not have to follow the board's recommendations. She could decline to commute the sentence, she could commute the sentence to time served or she could opt for anything in between. That's completely at the governor's discretion, regardless of the board's recommendation,"
A spokesman for Fallin, Michael McNutt; said; "The commutations likely will reach the governor's office in the next two weeks. The governor believes we must start focusing on treatment and reintegrating nonviolent offenders, which research has shown will result in lower crime rates and lower rates of recidivism,".
"In every one of these cases, if the same activity occurred today, these individuals likely would not go to prison, so it's just a matter of trying to bring these sentences in line with current statute," said former Speaker of the Oklahoma House, Kris Steele, who is chairman of Oklahomans for Criminal Justice Reform and a member of the Pardon and Parole Board.