Criminal Justice

The Largest Single-Day Commutation in History

Oklahoma frees 527 low-level offenders—and saves nearly $12 million.

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Hundreds of low-level offenders in Oklahoma will be reunited with their families today, now that the state's Pardon and Parole Board has recommended the largest single-day commutation order ever seen in the country. The state estimates that this will save taxpayers $11.9 million in money that otherwise would go to housing and otherwise supporting the prisoners.

According to a Friday press release from the office of Gov. Kevin Stitt, a Republican, the Pardon and Parole Board voted unanimously to commute 527 sentences. By the end of the day, Stitt had hand-delivered the signed certificates for each commutation to the state's Department of Corrections.

Prior to the recommendation, Oklahoma leadership teamed up with local nonprofits and others in the community to host transition fairs. These fairs provided inmates with services to help them reintegrate into society upon release.

One person released by the order is Calista Ortiz, whose story was highlighted by the Department of Corrections. Ortiz was sentenced to eight years in prison on drug charges. While behind bars, she committed herself to a rehabilitation program, participated in a prison fellowship, and started a food pantry for her cellmates.

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  1. Looks like Democrats will have a tough time going after Republicans.

    I think it’s a sound strategy to have measured support for Rule of Law along with mercy with parole and taking off the shackles after ex-cons have done their time.

  2. The state estimates that this will save taxpayers $11.9 million in money that otherwise would go to housing and otherwise supporting the prisoners.

    Won’t someone please think of incarceration industry workers?

  3. And this somehow happened in big old evil flyover country and not New York or California? Wow.

    1. California likes to kill their prisoners before setting them free.

    2. Yes. It happened in the state that incarcerates the highest % of its population

      Exactly what is needed. Not really something for your partisan BS.

      Congrats to OK for doing this. Maybe Louisiana, Mississippi, Georgia, Alabama, Arkansas, Texas, Arizona, Kentucky, Missouri, New Mexico, Tennessee, Idaho, Florida, Nevada, South Dakota, Delaware, Virginia, Wyoming, Indiana, South Carolina, Pennsylvania, Alaska, Wisconsin, Ohio, Kansas, Colorado, Michigan, Montana, West Virginia, North Carolina, California, Oregon, Illinois, Nebraska, Maryland, Iowa, North Dakota, Utah, Connecticut, and Washington can step up now and show that this whole criminal justice reform is something that is now being taken seriously at the state level. So that the land of the free can at least beat Cuba in the % of our people we incarcerate.

      1. Just to show how far away we are from actual criminal justice reform. OK would have to release 61% of its prison population in order to ‘beat’ Cuba re the % of adults incarcerated. 1.35% is certainly a laudable first step but if we start handing out prizes and medals at this point then all we do is guarantee very little further progress happens.

        1. How much of their population would they have to enslave on communes to ‘beat’ Cuba?

          1. Once upon a time the US used to set the bar high. Not argue about whether the bar is low enough.

  4. Ortiz was sentenced to eight years in prison on drug charges.

    Commuting people who shouldn’t have been incarcerated in the first place is a good start.

  5. The state estimates that this will save taxpayers $11.9 million in money that otherwise would go to housing and otherwise supporting the prisoners.
    In the words of a proverbial Chinese farmer (and suspected Terminator):
    We’ll see…

    1. Yeah, as long as there are no recidivism costs.

      The assumption that releasing them is a totally free action is more based on hope than it having no cost to society.

  6. Twice the ”saved” amount will be spent in short order.

  7. For that much money, I hope they get their civil rights back.

    1. Yes, along with the rest of us.

  8. they will regret this California reduce all crimes that were under $800.00 and now theft is huge and the police can’t do a thing about and won’t do a thing about

    1. BTW Gavin Newsom is talking about releasing prisoners who used a gun in their crimes as well. The left literally wants gun crimes to increase so that they can impose more gun laws on law abiding gun owners. its crazy

  9. people rarely belong behind bars. animals never.

    1. Cats, in particular, are terrible at mixing drinks.

      1. they think antifreeze is candy.

  10. There was a horrific story among the coverage of this commutation. Some woman’s boyfriend was abusing her kids. He served 2 years. She was charged for allowing it to happen. She plead guilty and got 30 years. She’s been sitting in prison since 2004.

    Holy crap, there is something wrong with our country.

    She was up for commutation twice and was denied.

    They are hoping to get her out this time around….

    https://kfor.com/2019/10/08/oklahoma-mother-recommended-for-prison-commutation-following-rare-prosecutor-support/

  11. BTW Reason…. all this time you’ve been covering every aspect of Orange Man Bad (while giving a nod to his meeting with Kim Kardashian being tacky, but with good results), we could have been reading about this voter initiative and the work that is going in to implementing it.

    Why only 500? Why does it take so long? It seems like it takes them longer to release people than it took to lock them away, why is that?

    Balko is working on a corruption story where a prosecutor lets people out of community service if they donate to his foundation…. where are our public corruption investigative reports?

    We get it.. you guys don’t like Trump. Pretty much nobody is going to be persuaded by a libertarian writer’s take on that issue though…. it is pretty thoroughly covered elsewhere. There are actually several national TV networks dedicated to the purpose of covering that story 24/7.

    Meanwhile, nobody is on criminal justice reform. Nobody is digging in to the individual stories or the institutional stories. There’s lots of fertile ground there, waiting to be plowed. Maybe peel off a couple of writers from the political beat and have them run with some of this stuff? We have the campus beat covered and sort of the sex worker beat… but none of the rest of it.

    1. Why not both?

    2. Considering how much Trump has decimated, or purged, depending on your take, the libertarian ranks, I think it is super necessary to keep explaining daily how Trump is an enemy of liberty.

      1. One word: Sessions.

    3. And Reason does cover this type of stuff all the time. I think there is quite a variety in the topics they cover. People just seem to exhibit sampling bias and focus on Trump and immigration. Do an actual article count based on topic to back up your assertion there are too many Trump articles.

      1. Ok. Now you stepped over into parody.

        Go back to when Balko was doing investigative reports. I was at the bleeding edge of criminal justice reform because of coverage here.

        Now? The only place reason is near the front is in campus speech. They also have a strong voice on sex work and trafficking, but I would like to see more original reporting to go with the opinion pieces.

        Beyond that? We sometimes get good articles about why orange man policy is bad. But way too much team politics. Our team doesnt even get covered on our own home team news site. Just teambred bad. And sometimes team blue almost bad too.

        1. “Our team doesnt even get covered on our own home team news site.”

          Did team L actually do something newsworthy? I must have missed that… 😉

  12. Did any reporter ask how they came to the $12M savings figure? If they still have the same number of prisons, the same number of guards etc, then all they save is their food costs. You can’t take the total cost of the correctional budget, divide by the number of inmates to determine the cost per inmate, then assume you’ve saved the per inmate cost when you release one. The budget needs to be actually reduced…

    1. Well, the savings have a slight brown tint – – – – – –

      I am also sure they did not factor in any kind of government support payments tot he recently released while they rebuild their shattered lives.

  13. What were the criteria for parole? Was it case by case, costing fees? Or, did they just pardon every victimless crime (political) inmate? I hope it was the latter but I would prefer it be done openly, on the principle that a drug conviction alone is unjust, immoral, a right’s violation.

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