The recent public discourse on our system of paroling offenders was presented in an article on August 8, 2012, in the Oklahoman. The article featured allegations by Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater that the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board was holding "secret meetings" to consider people for parole who were not eligible for that consideration.
First, the so-called facts that were initially presented were very convoluted and misleading --- now the public is confused about what it is the parole board actually does.
Despite the fact that people are deeply divided about this issue, the recent debate underscores one very important point that everyone agrees on: our system is broken. We are holding our state budget hostage, spending over $500 million on corrections---and we are being unduly harsh on the non-violent offenders while not effectively dealing with those who represent a threat.
Parole board veteran, Susan Loving, clarified the parole and so-called “secret docket” issue in the press. Governor Fallin declared that the Board was indeed operating as authorized under the law and constitution.
The conversation going forward should not be about pointing the finger, but about pulling together to create a more equitable and just system.
Gwendolyn Fields of The Advocacy Council stated that, “there should never be a situation where people guilty of heinous crimes are sentenced to less time to serve in prison than people who are guilty of property crimes. We need to understand and remedy our disproportionate response to crime. “
Senator Constance N. Johnson (D. 48) urges that legislators consider adopting a modified version of the truth in sentencing matrix. “The state legislature spent $6 million dollars to create a structured sentencing matrix in the mid-90s and then abandoned it before there was any evidence of how it would work. Instead, between 1995 and 2003, we created 5,700 new private prison beds and implemented the 85% rule in an unusual way. We continue along a path of legislative insanity that supports paying over $25,000 per year, per inmate, to lock up people for drugs and other offenses that didn’t involve violence. Then we slap victims in the face by slapping their perpetrators on the wrist. Nobody gets justice."
If no other question comes to mind, we must ask how we can afford this when schools in the most vulnerable areas of the city cannot afford enough books for its students and we can't afford to pay our teachers, police and firefighters a decent wage.
Fields encourages Oklahomans to "get educated on the facts and move beyond the false and misleading rhetoric so that we [the people of Oklahoma] can create and implement solutions that serve the ends of justice for all."
See also: http://www.indiegogo.com/oklahomawomen