New Pardon and Parole Executive Director Says Action Coming on Commutation Backlog

Oct 12, 2020

The Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board’s new leader said Monday he’s spent the past few weeks making a plan to tackle a backlog of commutation requests.

Executive Director Tom Bates said he expects there will be some training soon to help sort through around 3,000 applications that have built up as the board has taken up smaller dockets because of concerns about the review process.

"The whole purpose of this is to divide these up into some manageable buckets by objective criteria that allows us to help you as a aboard prioritize these pending applications," Bates said.

Parole Board Field Investigator Leroy Long said it’s been difficult to do their part in reviewing applications with state prisons nearly locked down because of the coronavirus, but they are making progress.

"I brought nine investigators in, took about 1,800 commutations out of review to try to get started on that, so then there we'll be done — we started that last week. They have to be back into the office by this Friday, and then we’ll start on December docket to try to get that backlog hit on," Long said.

Commutations require a two-stage process. The board cut the number of stage-one dockets it reviews from more than 400 a month to around 150 in August amid at least one member’s concern the process wasn’t built to properly consider that many.

Previously, agency staff had docketed around 425 cases a month through March 2021.