- Associated Press - Tuesday, August 18, 2015

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) - Revamped eligibility requirements approved by the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board likely would allow more nonviolent inmates to apply for sentence commutations.

Such inmates would be eligible for consideration after serving only three years of a sentence, The Oklahoman (https://bit.ly/1UQE2ek ) reported. For inmates serving life without parole, however, they will be required to serve large portions of their sentences before reaching eligibility under the new rules. Some violent inmates also likely will die of old age before becoming eligible.

The board unanimously voted during its monthly meeting on Monday to approve the changes, pending a review by the state attorney general’s office. If there are no legal issues, the new eligibility requirements will become procedure.

Oklahoma City attorney Tony Coleman, who works with clients seeking commutation, said the board could be flooded with applications from nonviolent offenders who are suddenly eligible. He expects the changes will especially impact drug offenders, many of whom are serving 10-year or 15-year sentences.

“My phones are going to ring off the hook,” he said.

Currently, any inmate with 20 years remaining on their sentence can apply for commutation, a form of clemency that’s defined by the state as “a matter of grace, mercy, privilege, or favor” and not a right. The board can recommend shortening an inmate’s sentence to a set number of years, such as reducing a life sentence to 20 years, or can commute to time served.

The governor has the final say on all commutations in Oklahoma.

“The governor’s office asked the Pardon and Parole Board to formally and publicly post rules regarding applications for commutation,” Alex Weintz, a spokesman for the governor, said Monday. “Governor Fallin appreciates them doing so, which has made the process more transparent and open.”

Under the new rules, violent offenders would be required to serve half of 85 percent of their sentence. Nonviolent offenders serving life without parole would be required would be required to serve 22 years, while violent offenders serving life without parole would be required to serve 38 years.


Information from: The Oklahoman, https://www.newsok.com

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