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Parole is defined as a conditional release of an offender who has served part of the term for which they were sentenced to prison. A parole does not change the original sentence imposed on an offender but rather suspends the sentence upon certain conditions being met.
Role of the Pardon and Parole Board and the Governor
The Pardon and Parole Board can grant paroles for non-violent offenders. Only the Governor can grant paroles for offenders convicted of a violent offense(s) following a favorable recommendation by the majority of the Pardon and Parole Board.
The Department of Corrections supervises offenders on parole. A parolee can be returned to prison to serve the remaining portion of the sentence if specific rules and conditions are not followed.
Parole provides an opportunity for the offender to be returned to the community to be supervised by the Department of Corrections, subject to certain conditions, limitations, programs, and services.
Conditions, Restrictions, Programs and Services
There are standard conditions which are set in order for any parolee. The Pardon and Parole Board may attached additional conditions to the approval of a parole or the recommendation of a parole. A condition is a service, a program, a restriction, and/or a limitation that the offender must complete or participate in after they have been released to the community on parole.
Violation of any of the standard or special conditions of parole may result in the imposition of additional/intermediate punitive sanctions, up to and including sending the offender back to prison.
As per Oklahoma statute, Title 57 O.S. Section 332.7 and 332.8, the Oklahoma Legislature enacted legislation which requires the Pardon and Parole Board to consider the following criteria when making a parole decision.
“332.7(H): It shall be the duty of the Pardon and Parole Board to cause an examination to be made at the penal institution where the person is assigned, and to make inquiry into the conduct and the record of the said person during his custody in the Department of Corrections, which shall be considered as a basis for consideration of said person for recommendation to the Governor for parole for violent offenders or for granting of parole for non-violent offenders by the Board. However, the Pardon and Parole Board shall not be required to consider for parole any person who has completed the time period provided for in this subsection if the person has participated in a riot or in the taking of hostages, or has been placed on escape status, while in the custody of the Department of Corrections. The Pardon and Parole Board shall adopt policies and procedures governing parole consideration for such persons.”
“332.8: No recommendations to the Governor for parole shall be made in relation to any inmate in a penal institution in the State of Oklahoma unless the Pardon and Parole Board considers the victim impact statements if presented to the jury, or the judge in the event a jury was waived, at the time of sentencing and, in every appropriate case, as a condition of parole, monetary restitution of economic loss as defined by Section 991f of Title 22 of the Oklahoma Statutes, incurred by a victim of the crime for which the inmate was imprisoned. In every case, the Pardon and Parole Board shall first consider the number of previous felony convictions and the type of criminal violations leading to any such felony convictions, then shall consider either suitable employment or a suitable residence, and finally shall mandate participation in education programs to achieve the proficiency level established in Section 510.7 of this title or, at the discretion of the Board require the attainment of a general education diploma, as a condition for release on parole. The Board shall consider the availability of programs and the waiting period for such programs in setting conditions of parole release. The Board may require any program to be completed after the inmate is released on parole as a condition of parole. A facsimile signature of the inmate on parole papers that is transmitted to the Board shall be an accepted means of acknowledgement of parole conditions. The probation and parole officer shall render every reasonable assistance to any person making application for parole, in helping to obtain suitable employment or enrollment in an education program or a suitable residence. Any inmate who fails to satisfactorily attend and make satisfactory progress in the educational program in which the inmate has been required to participate as a condition of parole, may have his or her parole revoked. If an inmate’s parole is revoked, such inmate shall be returned to confinement in the custody of the Department of Corrections.”
The Pardon and Parole Board considers public safety, protecting victims’ rights, and providing offenders with the opportunity for positive change in making their decisions. Included in their decisions are whether or not an offender has demonstrated appropriate behavior and made significant behavioral changes while incarcerated which encourages an opportunity for successful reentry in back into society. Each offender's situation is reviewed on a case-by-case basis.
Each member of the Pardon and Parole Board votes individually and a majority vote of three (3) is required for a favorable recommendation. Each vote is not finalized until the meeting is adjourned on the final day. Afterwards the votes are validated,the results are posted for public dissemination.
The Pardon and Parole Board makes one of four (4) decisions at a parole hearing. The decisions are:
1. Recommend parole for violent offenders to the Governor;
2. Grant parole for non-violent offenders;
3. Pass to another docket.
4. Denial of parole for the offender.
If the Pardon and Parole Board denies an offender parole, a violent offender will not be considered for another three (3) to five (5 ) years. A non-violent offender will not be considered for one (1) year.
It should be noted, just because an offender is eligible for a parole hearing, does not mean the parole will be granted. As mentioned before, many factor are considered when granting parole and the Pardon and Parole Board does not take their decision lightly.