Twenty-one people leave prison after Gov. Fallin commutes drug-related sentences 

  • Quinton Chandler

Twenty-one people were released from state prisons Wednesday after Gov. Mary Fallin commuted their sentences for drug-related crimes.

Fallin reduced the sentences for 20 women and one man to time-served. A spokesperson for the governor’s office said the people were released the same day Fallin signed their commutations.

A criminal justice reform advocacy group helped the people receive rare recommendations for reduced sentences from the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board last month. In one recent year, the board made similar recommendations for only 19 of 477 applicants. 

The governor’s office said the people receiving commutations would have received a much shorter sentence or no prison time at all if they were convicted of the same crimes today. 

The difference is due to criminal justice reform laws passed in recent years, including a voter initiative that reclassified simple drug possession and other drug-related felonies as misdemeanors.

Fallin reconsidered the inmates’ sentences after Oklahomans for Criminal Justice Reform guided them through the state’s months-long commutation process overseen by the Pardon and Parole Board. 

The advocacy group chose to help 46 people out of a group of about 700 people who they believed might have been given excessive sentences. Nine more of the advocacy group’s applicants will learn whether they’ll get a favorable recommendation after a board hearing next week.

A spokesperson for the advocacy group said one other woman received a commutation recommendation but was automatically disqualified after she was caught with drugs in prison.

Editor’s Note: A previous version of this story misstated the number of people still seeking recommendations for commuted sentences from the state Pardon and Parole Board. The story has been revised to reflect that the correct number is nine.