criminal justice

Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter says the state Pardon and Parole Board has the authority to hold commutation hearings for death row prisoners. The AG made the announcement in response to a question from the Pardon and Parole Board.

The opinion should clear up confusion created after death row prisoner Julius Jones applied to be considered for commutation last year. Jones was convicted of murdering Edmond man Paul Howell in 1999.

The Oklahoma Department of Corrections said in a statement last week there are some flaws in an analysis that claims eliminating sentence enhancements for nonviolent crimes would reduce the prison population and save the state up to $186 million in 10 years.

Sentence enhancements are a tool that allows courts to increase the maximum range of punishment for defendants who have prior convictions.

Criminal justice reform activists believe a potential ballot question that calls for an end to rules that extend prison sentences for repeat offenders could reduce the state prison population by more than eight percent over time.

New analysis completed by the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs, a conservative think tank, suggests the changes in State Question 805 would save the state up to $186 million over 10 years.

The Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board is asking the state Attorney General’s opinion on whether death row prisoners qualify for its commutation process. The board voted unanimously to send the question to Attorney General Mike Hunter’s office.

Board members say they have reviewed the state law that defines their powers and aren't sure whether the normal commutation process applies to death penalty cases.

  This Week in Oklahoma Politics, KOSU's Michael Cross talks with Republican Political Consultant Neva Hill and ACLU Oklahoma Executive Director Ryan Kiesel about the Oklahoma Supreme Court ordering the Secretary of State to start counting signatures on a ballot measure dealing with sentencing reform, lawmakers meeting to override gubernatorial vetoes while at the same time leaving some vetoes to stand.


The Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board recommended 12 of 14 prisoners for medical parole on Wednesday. The board removed two people from consideration because one was already up for parole and the other chose not to seek early release.

Medical parole is reserved for prisoners with serious health conditions and is rarely used. It allows the pardon and parole board to bypass time consuming procedures if the Department of Corrections recommends prisoners for consideration.

The agency sent this latest list of people to the board for consideration earlier this month.

Wesley Fryer / Flickr

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.

Oklahoma Department of Corrections

Jonna Wolf is worried there are a lot more than the two COVID-19 cases being reported in Oklahoma’s population of nearly 24,000 prisoners.

Quinton Chandler / StateImpact Oklahoma

Attorneys for a group of Oklahoma death row prisoners say the state hasn’t finished its revisions to a plan for carrying out executions, as required by a 2015 legal agreement that suspended capital punishment in the state.

Their challenge will be considered at a federal court hearing on Tuesday.

The argument is the latest in a roughly six-year lawsuit challenging the way Oklahoma executes people.

This Week in Oklahoma Politics, KOSU's Michael Cross talks with Republican Political Consultant Neva Hill and ACLU Oklahoma Executive Director Ryan Kiesel about the lawsuit by legislative leaders to get the governor to call a revenue emergency so they can fund the government through the month of June and number provided by the governor's office on how many inmates are getting released in the latest round of commutations were incorrect.