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Petition Seeks Medical Parole For At-Risk Oklahoma Prisoners

Wesley Fryer / Flickr
A sign outside Cimarron Correctional Facility in Cushing, Okla.

As the state Pardon and Parole Board prepares to consider 14 releases on Wednesday, reform advocates are petitioning the state of Oklahoma to reduce the prison population and release prisoners who are at higher risk of dying from COVID-19.

The petition asks the Department of Corrections to recommend people who are over 60 years old, are pregnant or have compromised immune systems for an expedited parole process called medical parole.

It also requests early release for people scheduled to get out within two months, and people who will be transferred to another state or type of detention, like immigration detention.

Colleen McCarty, a legal intern with Oklahomans for Criminal Justice Reform, started the petition. She says the goal is to protect the most vulnerable prisoners and ease overcrowding.

"I think it’s a reasonable ask to get to 100% capacity so corrections officers and people inside can at least be safe, or safer," McCarty said.

The Department of Corrections used strict standards to recommend 14 people for medical parole earlier this month. McCarty believes the state needs to push for many more releases.

Quinton Chandler worked at StateImpact Oklahoma from January 2018 to August 2021, focusing on criminal justice reporting.
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