I have fallen behind in my duty. This question has been getting a lot of attention over the last few days. So it is time I addressed it.
Of all the questions on the ballot this year, SQ 762 is the only question that was a slam dunk case of “Vote Yes” for me. I will explain, but first the text of the question.
This measure amends Section 10 of Article 6 of the Oklahoma Constitution. It changes current law, decreasing the power and authority of the Governor by removing the Governor from the parole process for persons convicted of certain offenses defined as nonviolent offenses. It enlarges the power and authority of the Pardon and Parole Board by authorizing that Board, in place of the Governor, to grant parole to persons convicted of certain offenses defined as nonviolent offenses.
The Legislature defines what offenses are nonviolent offenses and the Legislature may change that definition.
The measure authorizes the Pardon and Parole Board to recommend to the Governor, but not to itself grant, parole for persons convicted of certain offenses, specifically those offenses identified by law as crimes for which persons are required to serve not less than eighty-five percent of their sentence prior to being considered for parole and those designated by the Legislature as exceptions to nonviolent offenses. For those offenses for which persons are required to serve a minimum mandatory period of confinement prior to being eligible to be considered for parole, the Pardon and Parole Board may not recommend parole until that period of confinement has been served.
Oklahoma is the only state in the nation in which the Governor must approve every parole. All other states only involve the governor in violent offenders or do not involve the governor at all. With the Governor involved in every parole, the process is slow costly and unfair to those seeking parole.
Recently, Governor Mary Fallin came out in opposition to this question, even though she signed into law the exact bill it is based on. When she signed the bill, it was determined by the State Attorney General that this would have to be sent before the citizens to amend the State Constitution. So what changed between her signing the original bill and this state question being on the ballot? Probably the very public impression that she might be “soft on crime”.
I don’t see how one could even think that as Fallin has approved fewer paroles in her two years in office than previous governors did in a similar timeframe. That is an injustice to those who have served time in prison and have shown that they are reformed. They deserve a chance to integrate themselves back into society.
Because this bill is limited to non-violent offenses, there is no risk of danger to the public. Those who are serving sentences for violent crimes or other mandatory 85% sentencing terms, will still require Governor approval before parole is granted.
Oklahoma is #1 in the nation for incarceration rates among women as is a top ranking state for incarceration rates in general. Oklahoma has an incarceration problem right now. We do not have enough prison personel to handle the number of people we put behind bars. This question, if passed will help reduce that burden on our prison personel. Fewer people behind bars means an easier job for those civil servants. If this question does not pass, we will continue the compounding problem that will lead to more riots, more inmate and personel deaths.
Do the right thing and “Vote Yes” on SQ 762