Oklahoma Governor Fallin commutes sentences of drug offenders

Supporters cheer at emotional ceremony
Oklahoma Governor Fallin commutes sentences of drug offenders

Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin has commuted the sentences of 21 prison inmates convicted of various nonviolent offenses following a campaign by supporters of changes to the state’s criminal justice system.

Each of the 21 offenders, mostly women convicted of drug crimes, were sentenced to 10 or more years in prison for offenses that now carry only jail time or significantly reduced sentences. Fallin signed the commutations during an emotional ceremony at the state Capitol in which family and friends of the prisoners cheered every signature.

Another group of about two dozen offenders are expected to reach Fallin’s desk later this month.

Oklahoma’s incarceration rate has been increasing for decades, and is now the highest in the nation.

Although Fallin in recent years has pushed for changes to the state’s criminal justice system, like more treatment and sentencing options for nonviolent offenders, many of her proposals have been resisted by the state’s GOP-controlled Legislature and elected district attorneys .

After years of inaction by the Legislature, a group of civic and business leaders led an effort two years ago to reduce the penalties for drug possession and low-level property crimes. Voters approved the plan in 2016 with nearly 60 percent of the vote.