The corrections agency now says good behavior credits adopted in 2009 and reentry credits adopted in 2016 aren’t among them. The state’s prison population has trended downward since October 2018, when 27,262 people were in DOC custody, with much of the decline coming this year. The state said more than 900 inmates applied for an early release and that it expects to have around 2,000 empty prison beds by the end of the year. Since the release of the Attorney General's original memo to the Bureau of Prisons on March 26, 2020 instructing us to prioritize home confinement as an appropriate response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the BOP has significantly increased its placement of offenders on home confinement. StateImpact Oklahoma is a collaboration of KGOU, KOSU, KWGS and KCCU. Nationwide, one in five inmates in state and federal facilities has contracted COVID-19. But obviously it was.”. In 2019, Oklahoma’s prison population decreased by an average of 35 inmates per week. About 6,500 inmates in California’s prisons were eligible for release under the state’s high-risk medical release program. He has high blood pressure, asthma and is pre-diabetic, and she worries he's especially vulnerable as an inmate in Colorado, where outbreaks in prisons are raging.Prisons across the U.S. have been hit hard by COVID-19. © 2011-2020 Oklahoma Public Media Exchange, Task Force for the Study of State Tax Credits and Economic Incentives. Educational programs are one way prisoners earn credits to take time off their sentences. “If you have a 20-year sentence for trafficking, I mean, and you don’t come up for parole, the difference between getting good conduct achievement credits and not getting good (conduct) achievement credits on a 20-year sentence is six or seven years,” Blake said. After receiving the letter, the Department of Corrections chose to eliminate the disputed credits. Of the nearly 3,000 people released, more than 1,200 people … He said the law doesn’t allow credits to be awarded for repeatedly completing the same program. "Recidivism goes way down when we can get people plugged in and working," he said. Even if good behavior could be defined as a program, Shaner said prisoners received good conduct credits for doing the same thing over and over again. “Seeing that taken away is obviously disappointing,” Glen Blake said. “I mean, now that I see the Attorney General’s opinion, I understand where it’s coming from,” Blake said. Some inmates are being granted early release because of coronavirus outbreaks. ", "Today," he added, "we are implementing the will of the people. As COVID-19 cases spread though the state’s prisons, some older inmates and their family members have pleaded with Colorado Gov. County officials want input on early inmate release Coronavirus. StateImpact Oklahoma reports on energy and the environment, education, health, criminal justice, and the intersection of government and everyday Oklahomans. Among those scheduled for release on Monday are 72 women, 11 of whom already have received their Oklahoma driver's license or state ID card. A policy that gave Oklahoma prisoners time off their sentences for good behavior and completing reentry programs has been canceled. The Oklahoma parole board considered the cases of 814 inmates and recommended commutation for 527 inmates. ", 24/7 coverage of breaking news and live events. Sixty-five of them will remain in prison because of warrants against them in other cases. Justin Wolf is the director of communications and government relations for the Department of Corrections. Click here to donate online to support our journalism. Kevin Stitt approved more than 400 commutations last week, leading to the release of 111 inmates. But as of Nov. 25, only 62 inmates were released solely because of their medical conditions, according to data from the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. Oklahoma’s corrections officials, lawmakers, and policymakers should work with the Governor’s office and the Parole Board to expedite releasing as many aging and immunocompromised inmates as possible, provided that these individuals do not pose an immediate risk to public safety. Washington, who was incarcerated in the ’70s and helps inmates with legal paperwork, joined a small crowd outside of the Department of Corrections Oklahoma City headquarters on Dec. 11, 2020, to protest prison conditions. (April 17) In April, Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt commuted the sentences of over 450 people. The state said it expects to have around 2,000 empty prison beds by the end of the year. Oklahoma Commutations Largest Mass Release in U.S. History Loaded on March 4, 2020 by Kevin Bliss published in Prison Legal News March, 2020 , page 34 Filed under: Release and Reentry , Post-release, ex-offender, re-entry . "And that's a pretty special accomplishment. Officials said other inmates … The board is scheduled to meet next on November 18. State prisons in California may give early release to some of the state’s 123,000 convicts. Before joining StateImpact, Quinton spent three years reporting in South Central and Southeast Alaska. “Literally every client who was getting good credits before, which is pretty much every one of our clients, is no longer getting them,” he said. The move could lead to the early release of more than 2,000 inmates, NJ.com reported. As of December 5 this year about 6,000 inmates have been released from prisons by reducing the total number of inmates to 26,364 from 32,200 since October 12, 2020. On April 17th, he commuted the sentences of 7 people in Ohio state prisons. Of the soon-to-be released inmates, according Oklahoma City ABC affiliate KOCO, the average age is nearly 40, with each having been in prison over the last three years. The Oklahoma Department of Corrections posted this picture of some women that will be discharged As part of a new law with ID cards. “There are a lot of programs available to inmates,” Wolf said. ", In 2018, the Prison Policy Initiative showed that Oklahoma had the highest incarceration rate in the U.S. with 1,079 per 100,000 people. So far in 2020, the population is dropping by about 88 inmates per week. Inmates will continue to have sentences reduced as long as the public health emergency remains in effect. ... 2020; Oklahoma Hospital Association presents student award December 22, 2020; Several other methods of earning credits, such as securing a birth certificate and a social security card also don’t qualify anymore. Blake is a public defender in Tulsa and he’s the lead attorney for Project Commutations which helps Oklahoma prisoners get early release. Blake hopes the state Legislature will consider rewriting the law to bring the credits back. In March 2020, the COVID-19 coronavirus and its lingering threat has become a potential get out of jail card for inmates who argue its not a matter of … There are several requirements dictating what prisoners can do to earn credits. Kevin Stitt said at a press conference that it's "an important step for criminal justice reform in our state. The agency projects the policy change will increase its prison population by 3.6% in two years and to a lesser extent with each new year. He said the good conduct and reentry credits didn’t meet those requirements. The beginning of a possible system-wide spread. “Oklahoma criminal law is written very aggressively and strictly to prevent the Department of Corrections from releasing inmates before their sentences are completed,” spokesman Justin Wolf told The Frontier in September. By the end of the day on Friday, Echols said the state was "no longer No. Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News DEC 24, 2020 - More than a half-dozen inmates granted release under the state’s new administrative parole process were convicted of crimes including sexual solicitation of a minor, indecent exposure and failing to register as a sex offender. 1 in the nation in incarceration. Turn on desktop notifications for breaking stories about interest? The policy change means if they aren’t released on parole, a lot of his clients won’t be freed as soon as they previously thought. Prisoners attend a graduation ceremony at Dick Conner Correctional Center. "We all came together, and worked toward, to conduct a very thorough review process to ensure that those eligible for this commutation were actually in line with what the intent and the will of the people were," Stitt said Friday. Derrald Maestas hugs his mother, Cecelia Giron, after he was released from the Utah State Prison in Draper on Tuesday Nov. 3, 2020. Hundreds of prisoners in Oklahoma are scheduled to be released Monday after the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole board on Friday commuted the sentences of more than 450 inmates. As part of the process of preparing the inmates for life outside prison walls, the state hosted more than two dozen re-entry fairs for prospective early-release prisoners. The agency reached the conclusion after its legal counsel asked the state Attorney General’s Office for help. Quinton is an Oklahoma native who started his radio career with KOSU Public Radio in 2011. Inmates seeking early release must apply for commutation or medical parole through the Pardon and Parole Board. Glen Blake told the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board this month that his clients seeking parole were just hit with hard news. More than 6,700 state inmates have tested positive for COVID-19 and 39 have died since April. The Justice Minister explained that his Ministry is expecting to refer drug addicted inmates for rehabilitation under a proper plan. Similar to a typical job fair, inmates could get a state ID or a driver's license, advice on housing or educational opportunities or explore career opportunities. The state announced it would save $11.9 million annually due to the early-release program. ", Calling Friday's commutation the single largest in U.S. history, Oklahoma Gov. The Department of Public Safety released six inmates under these new criteria and is considering about 500 more. They are getting out about 16 months early on average. This order is one of the many preventative measures put in place to reduce the risk of COVID-19 to staff and inmates. The first 3,500 inmates were freed in April to create space in crowded prisons and 6,900 more were deemed eligible for release in early July, totaling 10,400 releases. Most of the state’s prisoners qualified for the good conduct credits as long as they didn’t break the rules. The Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board reviewed the cases of 814 inmates and recommended 527 to Governor Kevin Stitt. Apr 7, 2020. He’s a graduate of Oklahoma State University. DEC 16, 2020 - DENVER (AP) — Amber Johnson is terrified her 63-year-old father will get the coronavirus. Oklahoma inmates tense as prisons become COVID-19 hotbeds ... the state board in charge of recommending prisoners for early release is straining against legal restrictions as it … "Having an official state ID or driver's license is a huge hurdle for many former inmates as they try to integrate into society after prison," the Oklahoma Department of Corrections said in a statement. House Bill 1269, which just took effect after it was passed in May by the state legislature, was designed to limit prison time for low-level drug and property crime offenders. Glen Blake says this will be a hard reality for his clients to face. Quinton loves writing, reading and has an intense relationship with his Netflix account. One credit is equal to one additional day off a sentence. Since March, the population at New Jersey’s correctional facilities has decreased by about 16 percent. Oklahoma ranks ninth in inmate coronavirus cases and 16th in cases per 10,000 inmates, according to data compiled by The Marshall Project and The Associated Press. He stresses that this change won’t eliminate the credit system. “It’s rewarding positive behavior, you know what I mean,” he said. The executive order says that certain criteria must be met for early release. The Department of Corrections estimates 80% of prisoners who were getting these credits could spend around two additional months in prison for every year of their sentence. Under the governor's order, inmates eligible for early release or home detention include those whose prison term is set to expire within the next four months and are … Reentry programs are designed to help prisoners get ready for life after prison. Stitt said making sure the released inmates have a place to sleep and a job to work is they key to making sure they stay out of the prison system. The Department of Corrections believes the long-standing practice isn’t legal. He says prisoners can still earn time off their sentences, just in different ways. "If we work together the way that we worked on this bill," Democratic state Rep. Jason Dunnington said, "we can accomplish big things. StateImpact Oklahoma is a partnership among Oklahoma’s public radio stations and relies on contributions from readers and listeners to fulfill its mission of public service to Oklahoma and beyond. Stitt said more than 700 inmates met with 200 volunteers to enroll in programs designed to aid with a successful reintegration. Ethan Shaner, the deputy general counsel for the Attorney General’s Office wrote in an informal letter that state law and Department of Corrections policy require credits to be awarded when prisoners complete programs with specific goals. Leaders from both parties praised the bi-partisan bill on Friday, saying that even in today's political climate both parties could work together on commonsense laws for the people. Read the reports and hear the stories on NPR member stations. Seventeenstates have ordered the release of inmates at the state level The Attorney General is expected to send the corrections agency a formal opinion on the issue, which would provide legal justification for changing the policy. Oklahoma state prisons are currently at 108 percent capacity. State prison officials are reviewing early release for certain, nonviolent inmates who are considered high-risk for COVID-19 complications and those who are already scheduled to be released in 2020. More than 900 inmates applied for an early release as part of the new law. Quinton Chandler “But I had never really known that it was viewed as potentially problematic. The first 3,500 inmates were freed in April to create space in crowded prisons and 6,900 more were deemed eligible for release in early July. Because 65 of the approved inmates had retainers, 462 were released on Monday. “I feel like that’s got to have a positive impact on people, right?”. On April 16th, Ohio Governor Mike DeWine authorized the early release of 105 people from state prison who are nearing the end of their sentence. Catch up on the developing stories making headlines. THAILAND: Amid the threat from the COVID-19 pandemic and as a way to solve prison overcrowding, the Justice Ministry is … The people of Oklahoma kicked off this process after passing a ballot initiative to change the punishment for non-violent minor drug offenses three years ago. "These are real people with real lives and real families and real friends, and now they get to go home," Oklahoma House Majority Leader Jon Echols said a press conference Friday. "More than 450 Oklahomans are getting a second chance.". Currently, the BOP has ---inmates … He adds that the new policy isn’t retroactive – prisoners who already earned time off for good behavior and for participating in reentry programs before November 1 won’t lose those credits. Neal was recently released from prison as part of an early release program in response to the pandemic. OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. — Oklahoma Gov. Early release for prison inmates considered. News headlines today: Dec. 18, 2020. Catch up on the developing stories making headlines. A nurse who got vaccinated tested positive for COVID, but that's not unexpected, Thousands of residents without heat after attack on gas service, The Year 2020: Coronavirus becomes largest global health threat in a generation, Nonprofit founder charged with murder after hit-and-run that killed 2 boys: DA, Judge blocks residency challenges to 4,000 Georgia voters. This is a big deal and this is an exciting time.". Michael Washington holds a sign with the number of an inmate who was infected with COVID-19. The Department of Corrections legislative agenda is decided by the state Board of Corrections. (MORE: Prisons are becoming intelligence goldmines for US law enforcement), (MORE: Correctional officer suicides in 2019 tied for most in single year: Union president), according Oklahoma City ABC affiliate KOCO. Early release dates for Oklahoma prisoners just got pushed back The prison population is now projected to grow an additional 3.6% in 2 years. Blake says the credits the Department of Corrections has stopped offering were a lifeline for people sent to prison for serious crimes like drug trafficking. For decades, Oklahoma law has allowed the Department of Corrections to offer prisoners credits that take time off their sentences in exchange for completing programs such as earning a GED and finishing job training. 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