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Pros & Cons of a proposal to take governor off Oklahoma's Pardon & Parole Board

Updated:

Currently the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board makes a recommendation on every offender they see, but the governor must approve the decision before it is finalized.

Now, Oklahoma voters will decide who should have the final say on non-violent offenders and their parole.  If state question 762 is passed the Pardon and Parole Board would no longer have to wait on the governor's approval to put a recommendation in motion.

"The parole board really hasn't taken a position, pro or con, they are just kind of staying neutral," says Terry Jenks, the Director of the Pardon and Parole Board.  "I think some people on one side are arguing that the governor needs to be involved in the process, and conversely the other side, people are saying well, we could save money, particularly when we're dealing with the nonviolent offenders."

Governor Fallin says that eventually her role in pardon's and paroles can be streamlined, however, she says now is not the right time.

"It appears state question 762 would define non-violent offenders only by their current offense, and would not mandate the consideration of past violent behavior," Fallin says in a news release.  "Since taking office, I have denied parole for 437 offenders, who would be considered 'non-violent ' under the terms of state question 762, keeping them off our streets and out of our communities."

Oklahoma is the only state in the nation that requires the governor sign off on every inmate parole recommendation.  According to Ottawa and Delaware County district attorney Eddie Wyant, that is because other checks on the board are in place.

"The spin on that would be, well if we did this we'd be like everybody else - well no, there are other states, a lot of other states that have other safe guards in place other than the governor overseeing the decisions," says Wyant.

Supporters of state question 762 say the change will reduce the strain on the state's parole system by making it more efficient and cut incarceration costs.

But according to Wyant, the state should look at putting up stronger checks on the parole board in place before voting to take away the governor as a watchdog.

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