Oklahoma Frees Hundreds of Inmates in Largest Single-Day Mass Commutation in US History

Oklahoma made history this week with the biggest number of released inmates in a single day. 527 state inmates will have a second lease on life thanks to the unanimous decision to commute their sentences.

On November 1, in a press release from Oklahoma’s Governor’s website, it was announced that the “largest single-day commutation in US history” took place. 

According to the statement, the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board voted unanimously on the recommendation to commute the sentences of 527 state inmates, the largest number of inmates freed in a single day. 

Oklahoma reportedly holds the highest rate of incarceration in the US and is been known to deliver harsh sentences for low-level offenders.

The recommendation was signed off by Oklahoma Republican Governor Kevin Smitt who announced, “Today, we’re implementing the will of the people.”

He also addressed the freed inmates with encouraging words, wishing them a successful future as they begin the first day of the rest of their lives.

"Had these inmates served their full uncommuted sentence, it could have cost the State of Oklahoma approximately $11.9M for continued incarceration based upon the average costs," the Pardon and Parole Board said. 

Oklahoma reportedly holds the highest rate of incarceration in the US and is been known to deliver harsh sentences for low-level offenders.

According to CNN, in 2016, the state amended its offenses turning low-level felonies into misdemeanors. As such, “possession of a small amount of drugs became a misdemeanor, and the threshold for a property crime becoming a felony increased from $500 in property value to $1,000 in value,” the publication detailed

The move to free hundreds of inmates in a day last week was reportedly driven by the amount of money that can be saved and redirected.

"Had these inmates served their full uncommuted sentence, it could have cost the State of Oklahoma approximately $11.9M for continued incarceration based upon the average costs," the Pardon and Parole Board said.

As per the Star Tribune, with the amount saved on incarceration, it can be used for drug treatment and rehabilitation services instead. 

Videos taken after inmates were released showed tearful reunions with families outside the prison walls. According to Oklahoma's press release, among the 527 inmates recommended to be freed, 75% were male. The average age was 39.7 years. Only 462 inmates were released on November 4 as the remaining 65 inmates still have detainers.   

It will certainly be a joyous holiday for these inmates and their families who realized their second chance with their loved ones. 

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