Oklahoma City, OKRight On Crime, a national criminal justice campaign, cautions members of Oklahoma’s Pardon and Parole Board against narrowing eligibility for commutation relief and limiting the Governor’s commutation power.  Urging they reconsider the proposed changes, Davidson wrote a letter to the board asking them to consider conservative principles of justice, fairness, and long-term well-being of our communities.

“While I appreciate the importance of government efficiency, these proposed changes lack a clear rationale and raise several points warranting reconsideration,” said Marilyn Davidson, the Oklahoma State Director of Right On Crime and a lifetime resident of Oklahoma. “The proposed rules impose unwarranted restrictions on the Governor’s power, which could undermine the effectiveness of the authority of that office.”

Davidson states that the Governor’s authority to commute sentences, as outlined in the Oklahoma Constitution, is intentionally broad.  The Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board’s role is to conduct an impartial investigation and recommend only those applications deemed worthy of the Governor’s commutation.  Severely limiting the pool of applicants may hinder the ability of the Governor to exercise the authority judiciously.

Davidson points out several concerns for Oklahoma’s Pardon and Parole Board to consider:

  • The absence of formal commutation requests directly to the Governor may create unnecessary confusion and waiting times.
  • Introducing a trial official to make recommendations raises concerns, given the broad and undefined nature of the term.
  • Elected officials, such as judges and district attorneys, may be reticent to reconsider sentences and determine who can apply for commutation.
  • Limiting eligibility for commutation may inadvertently contribute to increased court dockets and processing delays from individuals seeing relief from the court system.

“Commutation can create better opportunities for those with a criminal record who show the public they have changed,” said Davidson. “Past commutation recipients have demonstrated the positive impact of rejoining the workforce, caring for families, and contributing to their communities. In times of economic uncertainty and labor shortages, it is prudent to carefully weigh any changes that might provide the best opportunities for rehabilitation.”