The Senate unanimously approved a measure Wednesday to send to a vote of the people a constitutional amendment to remove the Governor from the parole process for nonviolent offenders. Sen. Josh Brecheen, author of Senate Joint Resolution 25, said the measure would help speed up the parole process as well as save the state millions.
“Oklahoma is the only state in the nation where the Governor has to personally review and approve every parole. The 2007 MGT audit, paid for by the Legislature, suggested removing the Governor from this process. The study found that removing the Governor from the parole process for nonviolent offenders could save the state over $40 million in ten years,” said Brecheen, R-Coalgate. “Not only would it save the state time and money, it’ll also help get these individuals back into society quicker so they can begin supporting their families and contributing to the state’s economy.”
SJR 25 would amend the state Constitution to give the Pardon and Parole Board the power to review and decide parole requests for nonviolent offenders. Violent crimes would still be reviewed by the Governor.
According to the state Department of Corrections, incarceration of an inmate cost on average $16,000 annually or $47 a day. The MGT audit found that, on average, there is a 100 day delay in the Governor’s review of paroles. That delay in parole reviews costs the state an average of $4,700 per inmate.
“Had the Governor not had to personally review every nonviolent offender’s case, the parole process could have been expedited and those individuals could have been paroled well before the 100 day average review period, saving the state time and money,” said Brecheen. “We have a parole board that is tasked with reviewing these cases and we need to let them do their job, and let the Governor focus on the state’s budget.”
According to DOC, in fiscal year 2008, the Governor approved 1,170 parole requests which may have cost the state up to $5.5 million given the average 100 day delay in review of those cases. The next year, 739 cases were approved for an estimated cost to the state of $3.5 million. Then in FY’10, the Governor approved 463 parole requests costing the state as much as $2 million.
That same year, the Governor denied 119 paroles of nonviolent offenders, previously recommended for parole by the Board, costing the state approximately $1.9 million in continued annual incarceration expenses (based on DOC’s average incarceration expense per inmate currently costing $16,000 annually).