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Hundreds Serving Time For Crimes Reduced To Misdemeanors In Oklahoma Released From Prison

Matt Trotter / Oklahoma Public Media Exchange
More than 450 inmates, including 58 women at Eddie Warrior Correctional Center in Taft, were released Monday after receiving special commutations Friday.

Hundreds of Oklahomans serving felony sentences for crimes that are now misdemeanors were freed on Monday.

Voters reclassified drug possession and property crimes less than $1,000 in 2016, but the changes didn’t apply to people convicted beforehand until a new law took effect Friday. The Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board recommended 527 people for commutations that day, with 462 eligible to be released Monday.

Donnie Crow was released a year into a 10-year sentence for marijuana possession. Her husband and their sons, now 17 months and almost three years old, met her outside Eddie Warrior Correctional Center.

"It’s like a dream. I’m so happy, I don’t —there’s words that don’t even describe it. It’s a blessing. There’s nothing better than being given back your life to go home and raise your children when you thought you wasn’t going to get to," Crow said.

Gov. Kevin Stitt addressed Crow and 57 other women leaving the prison in Taft.

"Oklahoma’s just really proud of them. We’ll be tracking these folks. We’re getting them integrated into society and getting them educated, getting them places to stay, making sure that we do a good job of helping them get integrated and not come back here, repeat the same mistakes that they’ve had in the past," Stitt said.

The Department of Corrections hosted several transition fairs to connect inmates with services like counseling, housing assistance and job placement ahead of their release. The fairs were an idea of Oklahoma First Lady Sarah Stitt.

Pardon and Parole Board Executive Director Steve Bickley said with 26,000 state inmates, Friday's accelerated commutation docket — the largest one-day event in U.S. history — was just the start.

"We’re going to have more sentencing reform. There’s programming improvements that need to take place. There’s a lot of work to be done, and we’ll be about that activity tomorrow," Bickley said.

A governor’s task force is reviewing what state law considers violent crimes for possible reclassification.

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