OKLAHOMA CITY - After last week’s announcement that 404 people would return home from prison on 4/16, the Pardon and Parole Board dashed that expectation during their business meeting on 4/13. As families process the news that their loved ones will remain exposed as one of the most vulnerable populations in our state during this public health crisis, there is an urgent need to take further steps. The ACLU of Oklahoma issued the following statement.
The following can be attributed to Nicole McAfee, Director of Policy and Advocacy:
“At the end of last week, the Governor’s office celebrated the prospect of 404 people returning home on 4/16, underscoring his understanding of how critical it is to be a leader in taking necessary action to lower the number of people in custody in the face of COVID-19. Following a comment by Pardon and Parole Board Director Steve Bickley on Monday, it now seems the actual number of people eligible for release from those commutations is substantially lower, possibly fewer than 100. It is incumbent upon the Governor, the Pardon and Parole Board, and Department of Corrections Director Scott Crow to immediately meet that 400 person threshold for release, as they continue to work towards a number of people in custody who they can safely care for. This public health crisis is also a public safety crisis, as the rate of infection in prisons and jails escalates harm to staff, healthcare professionals, and communities where prisons are located. The Governor should amend his Executive Order to call for action in custodial facilities, while working with Director Crow on medical and compassionate release dockets, encouraging special meetings of the Pardon and Parole Board, and expediting the commutation recommendations that remain on his desk. The release of 404 people from custody was never a final step, but as we face an even smaller impact, the need for action is more urgent than ever.”