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How Oklahoma finally shed its reputation as the prison capital of the world

September 15, 2020 by G.W. Schulz

The appalling statistics are familiar to advocates of criminal justice reform. Oklahoma incarcerated a greater percentage of its population than anywhere else on earth - including dictatorships and failed states.

That’s changed since State leaders, starting in 2012, began to tackle the state’s long-running and costly reputation as the prison capital of the world.

New laws reduced certain felonies to misdemeanors, made it easier for people to expunge arrest records, ended life sentences in felony drug cases, permitted medical marijuana, and reduced employment barriers for former offenders.

Now, for the first time, we are seeing evidence that the reforms are working.

Early signs of hope

Oklahoma has officially dropped behind Louisiana and Mississippi in the unenviable ranking of who jails the most people in America. These earliest signs of success can be directly attributed to changes to Oklahoma’s once-broken parole system, including a surge in favorable recommendations made by the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board.

Despite continued challenges with implementation, the reforms are clearly beginning to ease the state’s prison crisis, according to the Oklahoma Policy Institute, and taxpayers in Oklahoma will save millions of dollars as a result.

Legislative reforms to the parole process, in conjunction with Gov. (Kevin) Stitt’s Pardon and Parole Board appointments, have contributed to a 14 percent decline in the state’s prison population in the past year. These outcomes do much more than simply reduce dangerous prison overcrowding and save tax dollars. They can change people’s lives for the better. Policymakers should invest in parole to promote best practices and to build on recent positive gains.”

More to come?

While we can’t go back in time and undo the damage that has been done, we can continue to support reforms that allow those still suffering from the impact of a far-too-punitive justice system to get relief and prevent new offenders from receiving the same treatment. For now, we can be hopeful that the reforms we have already made will aid our march towards progress.

Do you need help with a conviction?

If you or a loved one been convicted of a crime, the Tulsa Expungement Guy can help you navigate these historic new opportunities for reform relief:

  • Pardon - It can restore your right to possess a firearm, serve on a jury, become a police officer, vote and hold office, or obtain a liquor license. A pardon can also make you eligible for openly carrying a firearm in Oklahoma.
  • Expungement - Seals your arrest record from public view. That means it’s not viewable or discoverable when criminal background checks are conducted by potential employers, universities, lenders, and landlords.
  • Commutation - This measure grants mercy for a sentence that is later considered excessive or unjust. A commutation can take the form of release from prison, becoming paroled before a prison term is completed, or receiving a reduction in the number of years remaining.

We’ve helped hundreds of people move on with their lives from past bad decisions. An initial evaluation is always free.

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