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New Okla. law leads to release of 174 inmates

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OKLAHOMA – A new law aimed at reducing prison spending and overcrowding in Oklahoma means 174 inmates statewide are free today, but with a catch.

House bill 2131 allows inmates who qualify to serve the remainder of their sentences with GPS monitors outside of prison after 90 days, instead of the previous 180 days.  Officials with state and local detention centers say this law does not let just any offender off the hook.  They say there are strict criteria that offenders must meet in order to be considered for the program.

A few of the criteria state that the inmate must be convicted of a non-violent offense, with a sentence of less than five years or be within 11 months of discharge.  If an inmate has been convicted of a violent crime in the past 10 years they are not eligible.

7News also wanted to find out how this law affects us locally, so we went to a couple of local detention centers to find out.  Jeff Woody with the Oklahoma Department of Corrections says that contrary to popular belief the new law is not releasing hundreds of inmates into the community today.

"We have offenders coming to our area in Comanche County.  We have four.  We have three into Jackson, three into Stephens, one into Grady, two into McClain, and two into Garvin County today," said Woody.

Woody says although the new law expands the parameters of who qualifies for the GPS program, there are thousands of inmates who will not make the cut.

"Convictions for violent offenses in the past 10 years those people are not eligible.  If you're convicted of trafficking illegal drugs, if you've been denied parole within the last twelve months, [you are not eligible either]," said Woody.

Dale Cagle runs the Comanche County Detention Center.  Some of his inmates will eventually finish their sentences with the DOC.  He says some qualify for this new law and will eventually be set free.

"I think the big difference is that there is going to be more supervision through electronic monitoring than previously that we have seen in the state of Oklahoma and certainly for Comanche County," said Cagle.

Officials tell 7News that there are a lot of rumors surrounding this new law.  One, that the community will see an influx of hundreds of inmates.  7News went to the DOC in Lawton and they said, under this new law, only 15 people walked out of here today connected to this device.

Woody says he understands the community's reservations about this law, but says residents should not worry and that the eyes of the DOC are watching.

"These people that are on supervision, it's our job to help monitor that supervision and to help.  You know, we want them to be successful more than anything," said Woody.

7News was told that before this law the DOC release, on average, 700 inmates a year on GPS supervision.  They say they have a 90-percent success rate for women and an 87-percent success rate for men.

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