- Parole Process
- Dockets and Results
- Pardon Process
- Victim Services
In 1973, Oklahoma had just experience the worst prison riot in state history at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary, McAlester. One of the factors that contributed to the unrest was the parole process. The system was viewed as being inequitable, bias and unfair. Oklahoma had a Part Time Pardon and Parole Board. The Parole Board was dependent on which offenders were to be considered for parole from the Department of Corrections (DOC). Parole Board also relied on information on each offender’s case from the Department of Corrections. The Legislature in an effort to “fix” the parole system until a Full Time Board could be created, in 1973 provided funding for the Parole Board to hire two full time employees (interviewers). The interviewers would have a minimum of a Bachelor’s Degree in the Behavioral Sciences and have experience in criminal justice field. The purpose of the interviewers were to represent the Board within the Department of Corrections and assist the Parole Board.
On September 17, 1974 the people of Oklahoma were faced with making a decision on whether to Amend the Constitution to have a Full-Time Pardon and Parole Board. Opponents of the Full-Time Pardon and Parole Board cited that parole decisions should not be made by people whose jobs were dependent on other factors rather than public safety. The opponents also wanted the Governor to remain in the process to be held accountable for the Parole Board’s decisions.
The people of Oklahoma defeated the Amendment to the Oklahoma Constitution for a Full-Time Pardon and Parole Board. Because the Full-Time Parole Board Admendment had failed, the Legislature gave the Parole Board two additional staff/Interviewers. The Pardon and Parole Board Members were responsible for selecting and hiring the Interviewers. The interviewers were assigned to various facilities within the Department of Corrections (two in McAlester, one at Granite and the other in Oklahoma City). The DOC was responsible for issuing travel claims and payroll checks to the Board and staff.
However the system was still inconsistent. Even though the general rule for parole consideration was one-third of the sentence, the DOC facilities had systems in place on which offenders were reviewed by the Pardon and Parole Board. Many offenders served past their one-third date or even discharge their sentences without a review from the Parole Board. There was a great disparity of minority offenders that were excluded from being considered by the Pardon and Parole Board.
Reports to the Parole Board were not standardized either from DOC staff or the Interviewers. Even though the Parole Board had Interviewers, they were scattered throughout the state and did not know what type of report was submitted.
In 1979 under the leadership of Robert Mitchell, Parole Board Chairman, he solicited the Oklahoma Legislature and subsequently the Pardon and Parole Board Agency was created. Mr. Earl Brewer was the first Executive Director. The Agency became classified and the job title of the Interviewers change to Investigators. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) gave that title change based upon the description of the Investigator duties. With directions from the Parole Board Members and the Executive Director the reports to the Parole Board became standardize. The report would include factors that the members believe were important in their decision-making process.
Another important function of the Agency was the scheduling of offenders for parole consideration. This also became standardized. Offenders would now know within 30 days of their reception when they would be considered for parole by the Parole Board. Every offender would be considered for parole and not eliminated from the process at the institutional level.
As the Department of Corrections grew, the Parole Board Agency grew as well. As DOC added facilities, the Legislature provided investigators for those additional facilities.
The Investigators reports have evolved into an instrument that give the Parole Board Members information in a user friendly format. The Parole Board continues to be Part-Time and over the years, persons selected to the Board have come from various backgrounds. The Parole Board Members have mostly been attorneys, but have also had professions as a Banker, Ministers, Telephone Operator, Real Estate Broker, Butcher, Radio Station Operator, Newspaper Reporter, Teachers, a Housewife, etc.
The Investigator reports are also used by District Attorneys so they can see how the offender has spent his or her time during the incarceration. The Department of Corrections used the Investigator Reports to assist them in receiving accreditation from the American Correctional Association. Newspapers routinely request copies of the Investigator Reports. Needless to say, the reports are also perused in the Governor’s Office before she/he makes her/his final decision.
The recommendations that the Investigator submits on each offender are made from objective factors. The Agency strives for the recommendations to be informational rather than argumentative. The Investigators also conduct a Risk Assessment on each offender and the results of that survey are included with the report. The reports are beneficial to the Board Members because less than 40% of the offenders make a personal appearance before the Parole Board. The Board have to rely on the information provided to them from the staff. However if the Board need additional information on a candidate they can request this from their PP&B staff.
As mentioned earlier because more than half of the offenders do not receive a personal appearance before the Parole Board, the investigators are the only face-to-face contact the offender has with the parole process. The investigators are available to respond to questions from the offender and the facility personnel.
The Agency took on the responsibility on notifying District Attorneys, registered Victims/Victim Representatives, Law Enforcement, and the registered Media whenever an offender was considered for parole and the subsequent action pertaining to the offender. The Agency also represents the Governor’s Office in the Revocation Process.