- Associated Press - Thursday, July 9, 2015

LAWTON, Okla. (AP) - The Oklahoma Board of Corrections took no action Thursday on a directive from Gov. Mary Fallin that could allow thousands of inmates to be released from prison early.

During its regular meeting in Lawton on Thursday, the board delayed acting on a memo Fallin issued this week directing the panel to “immediately amend its earned credit policy” as it relates to inmates convicted of certain crimes that require them to serve at least 85 percent of their sentence.

Oklahoma Department of Corrections Director Robert Patton told The Lawton Constitution he believes the governor’s memo is correct, but that the board decided to wait to give the department more time to study what changes need to be made to its policies and procedures.

“I believe she is interpreting the law correctly,” Patton told the newspaper.

There are nearly two dozen so-called “85-percent crimes,” including murder, robbery, rape, drug trafficking and certain crimes against children. Under current corrections policy, inmates who are convicted of these crimes are not eligible to begin earning credits for early release until after they serve 85 percent of their sentence. As a result, most are typically not eligible for release until they’ve served 90 percent or more of their sentence.

But Fallin says state law only requires that these inmates serve 85 percent of their sentence, and that with the exception of only a couple of crimes for which early accumulation of credits is specifically prohibited, prisoners should be able to accumulate credits throughout their sentence.

Of the more than 8,000 inmates currently serving sentences for 85-percent crimes, Patton said the change could affect about 6,000 inmates and result in prison savings of up to $2 million over the next two years.

Some district attorneys and state legislators have voiced opposition to the proposal.


Information from:

The Lawton Constitution: https://www.swoknews.com/

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