Statement: Gov. Stitt should approve 283 commutations to decrease prison overcrowding and reduce the risk of a COVID-19 outbreak

OK Policy joined seven other organizations in calling for Gov. Stitt to approve 283 commutations to decrease prison overcrowding and reduce the risk of a COVID-19 outbreak. 

Amid the state’s growing COVID-19 public health crisis, eight organizations are urging Governor Stitt to grant more than 200 unsigned commutations to reduce the risk of an outbreak in Oklahoma prisons — Oklahomans for Criminal Justice Reform, Mental Health Association of Oklahoma, Oklahoma Women’s Coalition, ACLU of Oklahoma, Oklahoma Policy Institute, Still She Rises, Oklahoma Conference of Churches and Blockbuilderz. Oklahoma’s prisons are at 108 percent capacity, and a virus like COVID-19 can easily overwhelm the state’s overcrowded prisons where incarcerated people have less access to basic hygiene items, cannot social distance, and many areas are communal. 

Rural hospitals stand to suffer the most from these conditions. Fifty Oklahoma counties, largely in rural areas, have no ICU beds. Many of our state’s overcrowded prisons are also located in these rural areas, putting area hospitals at severe risk of being unable to handle a prison outbreak of COVID-19. 

The most vulnerable to COVID-19 are those who are 65 and older and those who have chronic illnesses or are immunocompromised. According to Oklahoma Policy Institute, roughly 20 percent of Oklahoma’s prison population is over the age of 50, meaning many could lose their lives if a COVID-19 outbreak occurred. 

Since December 2019, the Pardon and Parole Board has approved 283 commutations Gov. Stitt has yet to sign. If granted, these commutations would help reduce prison overcrowding and decrease the public health threat of a COVID-19 outbreak within our state’s prisons. Together, these eight organizations are urging Gov. Stitt to approve the recommended commutations to safely address this public health risk. 

# # #

Brenda Warren, mother of a DOC inmate eligible for release: 

“My son received commutation on December 11, 2019 from the Pardon and Parole Board, taking his sentence from 32 years to 15 years. He could have been released on the same day. But due to the fact that the Governor has failed to sign any recommendations for parole or commutation since January, my son is still awaiting release. 

He has been proven to be a ‘trusted inmate,’ which allows him to work in the Administration offices at the prison for the Unit Managers. This is a big honor, or at least was until COVID-19 created a big chance of him being infected. He and his peers have been told they will go into an old gymnasium on the property and social distancing will be initiated if they are exposed to the virus. They have not been given any additional ways to sanitize. Imagine how that brings morale down. Another important issue is that signing these commutations would have saved the state of Oklahoma almost $900,000 in the month of December.”

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

David Hamby has more than 25 years of experience as an award-winning communicator, including overseeing communication programs for Oklahoma higher education institutions and other organizations. Before joining OK Policy, he was director of public relations for Rogers State University where he managed the school’s external communication programs and served as a member of the president’s leadership team. He served in a similar communications role for five years at the University of Tulsa. He also has worked in communications roles at Oklahoma State University and the Fort Smith Chamber of Commerce in Arkansas. He joined OK Policy in October 2019.

13 thoughts on “Statement: Gov. Stitt should approve 283 commutations to decrease prison overcrowding and reduce the risk of a COVID-19 outbreak

  1. We also have been waiting since the month of December for something to be done and nobody can give answers

  2. My son has 85 he never hurt anyone he’s doing 10 please release people like him he had a drug problem made bad choices but never hurt anyone may give stint please look at cases like this

  3. Please make change to 85% rule. It is also unfair to have excessive sentences for first time offenders who turn to crime because they suffer from opioid addiction. And, please give inmates councelling during incarceration to help overcome the root issues of their behavioral problems.

  4. This release should be a priority. Speedy processing is a good thing all around for prison overcrowding, the cost if incarceration, the agony of being in limbo and the anxiety it puts families and loved ones through. These are human beings. Treat them fairly.

  5. I really believed in our Governor, I would not think he would sit on the releases since December, he and his wife seem so caring. I would think he would reduce the overcrowding immediately to save our children.

  6. Yes my husband is a type 2 diabetic , he suffers from sleep apnea , and also has a sickly immune system among other health issues .I’m very concerned because he is at a higher risk for catching the Cov-19 and his immune system not being able to help fight the virus like a healthy individual could . I’m concerned because the prisons do not have the appropriate PPE to protect the inmates , or proper disinfectants to disinfect knobs, doors, bathroom, showers ,cells etc . There not allowed to have any alcohol based products my husband is a non violent inmate who has less then a year of incarceration left . He’s completed all of his programs and hasn’t been in any trouble , and no write ups is there not something that could or be done for him to be able to be released ? A home bond program or something ? People are dying left and right from this virus and i don’t want my husband to be another person if anyone could help my email is teyonnataylor25@gmail.com .

  7. My grandson has not even began his life yet. Just turned 19. Would have been complete with his program april 20 and then to be released. He has done everything he was supposed to do. 2 weeks away from completing!! But since the courthouse is closed, and they shut down classes, they are imposing a potential death sentence on him!! That is insane!! And so wrong! They should let him go now!

  8. Governor Stitt, if your going to make Oklahoma Into a top 10 state you had better get moving. We have only seen one (1) prison reform bill passed that was promised to let out around 3,000.00 people. Oklahoma let out less than 1,000 including the current commutations over Covid-19. You’re RESTORE task force had the genius idea to solve prison overcrowding by creating a Bible college at one (1) of the medium security prisons. Please explain how a Bible college will do anything to ease overcrowding. I say if Oklahomans truly desire a better state, they should do a little research and find a true top ten state, and then move there, it’s almost guaranteed that you will run into Oklahoma’s best teachers there.

  9. In 2016 my son Kevin Cassil has a 7 year sentence and a 20 year sentence revoked in full and ran consecutive for a total of 27 years to do in the department of corrections. What did he do you ask? He was revoked for 2 first time technical violations, with no new felonies, misdemeanors or even a traffic ticket. The technical violations were for associating with a felon, and failure to report change of address. He stayed to many nights at his girlfriends apartment, his girlfriend was the convicted felon he was guilty of associating with. He is now serving time on his last 20 year sentence for larceny of an motor vehicle. 21 o.s. 1720. In 2018 the law was changed to reduce the penalties for property crimes, the penalty for larceny of a motor vehicle was reduced to a maximum punishment of 10 years. Also the law was changed covering the revocation process, as of November 2018 the maximum first time revocation for technical violations can only be 6 months. My son is still in prison, why were these laws not made retroactive? Oklahoma`s leaders are inconsistent in there changes to law. If a law reduces a penalty it should be made retroactive. This would help with the overcrowding, which In turn will help prevent the spread of Covid-19.

  10. Have a girlfriend. Named Christina nicole burge a mother of 6 recently had twin boys at the age of 40 and every since has had 💓 failure of 15% of her heart she had got sentenced to a program woman’s recovery completed it got out and got sentenced to 4 years suspended sentence on probation on other half of sentencing mad it 3 yrs the last yr she happen to relapse again an did not report to probation and parole I mean somebody that is basically pronounced day to day living it would turn to relapse if once was a user of drugs to numb the pain and now the judge sentenced her to 1yr in the department of corrections when last yr they reduced prison sentences to less time for property petty crimes due to Oklahoma highest crime rate and prison over croweded now why wouldn’t hers be reduced even on probation shouldn’t matter if incarsirated or on probation still under rules and regulations of OK DOC and now that Covid 19 has hit it’s peak u would think petty property crime and heart condition would be first to be released with one yr sentence and has served 3 1/2 months already she would be home fighting the risk of covid19 with her young children witch judge had no reason for drug use to revoke with over croweded of ok prison then we would not even have this issue if the judges descion was over looked by supreme courts have contacted attorney and memo sent to Eddie warriors Warden and seems she got in slight trouble of our concern of it cause Warden said nobody has had it incarsirated yet well next day in JoeEharp men’s facility inmate and guard tested positive so now our and her concern in higher risk of this pandemic so gov stitt please sleep on this brief post of a mother of 6 non violent and great caring mother with such short time left to breath free her

  11. My son went to for the pardon and parole board February 8, 2020 they reduce his sentence from 36 years to time served as of that date and paperwork was sent to the governors office and I haven’t heard anything since then I wish there was a list of names where we could look to see if our left one is on it

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.