Governor Mary Fallin Reverses Position On State Question About Parole Board

Friday, October 19th 2012, 4:46 pm
By: News On 6

In a couple of weeks, voters will decide whether to strip Oklahoma's governor of some of her power.

It's a plan the governor supported, until this week.

House Speaker Kris Steele is pushing State Question 762.

It would remove the governor from the parole process for non-violent offenders, leaving all the power to the state's Pardon and Parole Board.

"It's a national practice to have the governor removed from the process, so that he or she can actually spend more time on concentrating and focusing on those individuals who have committed violent offenses and violent crimes," Steele said.

Everyone thought this was a done deal last year.

The legislature overwhelmingly passed the plan and the Governor signed it, only to be told they didn't have the power to make it happen. It needed a vote of the people.

That's why SQ 762 is on the ballot.

But Governor Fallin has had a change of heart.

In the past week, she's pulled back her endorsement of SQ 762.

"I remain supportive of the general concept," Fallin stated, "however, recent events have led me to believe now is not the right time."

She said the Governor's office should continue to provide this oversight until additional reforms and changes can be made at the Pardon and Parole Board.

8/8/2012 Related Story: Oklahoma County D.A. Accuses Parole Board Of Operating 'Secret' Docket For Inmates

The parole board came under fire this summer, for compiling a secret list of convicts to put up for early parole.

While the attorney general ruled the Parole Board did nothing wrong, prosecutors across the state are pushing for a "no" vote on SQ 762, saying eliminating the governor as a watchdog could leave the Parole Board unchecked to put criminals back on the streets.

The District Attorney for Ottawa and Delaware Counties, Eddie Wyant, said, "All those people, your drug dealers, your traffickers, your burglars, and all these people, you're going to streamline them out of prison, instead of waiting around for the governor to look at them, and possibly deny it where they go back to prison. Pardon and Parole Board would make their decision and they'd be out."

Supporters of SQ 762 argue forcing the Governor to be involved in every parole means Oklahoma's parole rate is much lower than other states, costing taxpayers' money to keep non-violent offenders locked up.

Governor Fallin has denied parole for 437 non-violent offenders.