Oklahoma State Question No. 762 asks for the governor to be removed from the decisions on parole cases in low risk non-violent cases.
This state question will be one of four to be voted upon on the November 6 ballots.
While Governor Mary Fallin has changed her position concerning the state question, Oklahoma House of Representatives Speaker of the House Kris Steele has not.
Fallin once supported the bill but changed her position stating that the still agrees with the concept of the bill but has some concerns.
Opposing concerns are those of the offender’s past crimes. Fallin said in a recently released statement that State Question 762 would not take into account the offender’s past crimes which may be violent.
She said while in office she has denied parole for 437 offenders who would have been put on parole by the parole board.
Steele said while he respects the governor he disagrees with her new position and said he believes passing the state question will help cut down crime in Oklahoma.
House Bill 2131 was passed in 2011 which took non-violent parole cases out of the governor’s hands.
An attorney general later found that the bill could not be passed and instead had to be voted on because it dealt with an elected official’s authority.
The bill would take the authority to make ruling in some parole cases away from the governor. To take any authority away from the governor the people of Oklahoma must vote to approve it.
Oklahoma is currently the only state in the country in which the state governor approves all parole cases.
“It’s the nationally accepted best practice,” said Steele. Steele said while he feels it is a good idea to keep the governor in on the violent cases it is best for the state to remove the governor from non-violent parole cases.
He said that while he wants the state to be tough on crime he wants it to be “smart on crime” as well.
Steele said that not only would removing the governor from these cases leave her open to concentrate on the violent offenders but it would save the state time and money as well.
“We very much hope that the people of Oklahoma will support this” Said Steele.
Steele said that each person incarcerated in Oklahoma costs the state approximately $55 per day. With the current parole system it takes about 100 days of incarceration before a non-violent offender is put on parole.
The State Legislature defines what offenses constitute a violent crime and the legislature may change the definition.
Steele said this is done once a year. Every year the state crimes are reviewed and the legislature decides what merits a violent crime and what does not.