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Hundreds of prisoners to be released early

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The new unit will work closely with police and other law enforcement agencies

Hundreds of prisoners are being released early from Oklahoma prisons on Monday, in what is being called the biggest one-day mass commute in US history.

The state board of pardon and parole voted unanimously on Friday to recommend that the sentences of 527 inmates be commuted – 75% of them men and 25% women.

About 460 of those arrested could be released from prison on Monday. Many of those being released have been in prison for three years.

The decision was signed by Governor Kevin Stitt, who praised the opportunity to give hundreds of Oklahomans "a second chance".

Kevin Stitt, elected governor of Oklahoma in 2018, supported reform of the criminal justice system.

The state reportedly has the highest incarceration rate in the country.

There are 1,079 people incarcerated per 100,000 of the population in Oklahoma, compared to the US average of 698, according to prisonpolicy.org.

In 2016, Oklahoma voters made simple drug possession a misdemeanor rather than a crime – as part of an effort to prioritize treatment over imprisonment for those battling addiction.

Stitt, elected governor in 2018, supported the reform of the state's criminal justice system.

He signed a bill earlier this year that would retroactively adjust sentences for drug possession and low-level property crimes.

Steve Bickley, executive director of the parole board, said of his decision on Friday: "With this vote, we are doing Oklahomans' will.

"However, from day one, the goal of this project has been more than just the release of low-level, nonviolent criminals, but the successful re-entry of these individuals back into society."

If all prisoners had completed their sentences, it would cost Oklahoma nearly $ 12 million (£ 9.3 million).

The governor is expected to greet about 70 women whose sentences were commuted outside the gates of Dr. Eddie Warrior Correctional Center, a women's-only prison in Taft, Oklahoma.



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