More Oklahoma Inmates Freed After State Reviewed Sentences

Feb 14, 2020

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — More Oklahoma inmates have been released under a law that directs a state board to review sentences of those in prison for crimes that would not be considered felonies if charged today.

The law, which took effect in November, gives the state Pardon and Parole Board authority to establish an accelerated, single stage docket to review sentences, The Oklahoman reported. Under Oklahoma’s expedited commutation docket, 124 inmates, 83 men and 41 women, were released Thursday.

Elizabeth Bijelic, 28, is one of those inmates. She was reunited with her 2-month-old daughter, whom she said she gave birth to while serving a three-year sentence for drug possession.

“It’s amazing,” Bijelic said. “I didn’t expect it to happen so soon. I’m very blessed to be out. I’m not saying I didn’t need to be sat down for a minute, but it was excessive.”

More than 450 inmates were released in November. The release of inmates, all with convictions for low-level drug and property crimes, resulted from a bill new Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt signed.

Gov. Kevin Stitt signed commutations for 147 people serving time for simple drug possession earlier this month, but he did not approve two cases because they had significant misconducts after the board recommended them.

Stitt commuted 119 of the sentences to time served, the governor’s office said.

Stitt commuted the other 28 sentences to one year, following the board’s suggestion. It should take several months for inmates to be released as they complete their one-year sentences, unless they have detainers or holds.

The inmates released this week didn’t have detainers, warrants or holds, according to the board.

The board denied single-stage commutation relief for people who have records of serious misconduct, who received a victim’s protest letter or have a registered victim on file. Inmate were also turned down if they received a district attorney protest or if they would be required to register as either a sex offender or a violent offender.