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Oklahoma district attorneys fighting early parole for criminals

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STEPHENS CO., Okla_ The Oklahoma Parole Board has created a list of violent criminals that may be released from prison early, and the 27 district attorneys around the state are fighting against it.

In Oklahoma, the law states that violent criminals must fulfill at least 85% of their sentences before they're even considered for parole.

Stephens County District Attorney Jason Hicks said he thinks the parole board is feeling pressure to fix the prison overcrowding in our state. He said when the parole board reviews a case they have two options: to commute the sentence, which means to change the length of it, or parole. However, the criminal must have served 85% of the sentence.

The attorney general's office said while the parole board can't release an inmate before 85% of the time is served, they do have the power to commute the sentence. Hicks said he believes they're abusing their power.

Hicks recalled two cases from the list that are especially compelling to him. One involved a victim calling Hicks, upset after seeing her ex-husband's name on the list for early parole.

"He was sentenced to 30 years in the D.O.C. in 2008," Hicks said. "His name was on the list, and his crime was shooting with the intent to kill. He shot her in the stomach and he served four years and was on the parole board's early release docket."

The other case came out of Oklahoma County: a drunk driver who took a life.

"A couple was on their way to celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary," Hicks said. "The defendant was driving at a very high rate of speed. The husband passed away."

The drunk driver's blood test showed she was four times over the legal limit. Now, she is on the list for early release after only four years behind bars.

Hicks said his main concern is the victims and their families.

"They relive everything that they went through when it originally happened," Hicks said. "I had a case of early parole out in Grady County. We fought very hard to keep that offender in prison, and that family went through all of the emotions of losing a loved one over and over again. It wasn't enough that they lost a family member in '93. It wasn't enough that they went through three trials."

Now the 27 DAs across Oklahoma are joining forces to stop the parole board, and they're doing it by gathering support from the public. However, Hicks said it won't be simple; they'll have to get to the root of the problem.

"Realistically, it's going to have to change with legislation," Hicks said. "State senators and state representatives are going to have to get involved and look at the process and say, ‘Wait, there is a better way.'"

Hicks said if this is something that concerns you as a citizen of Oklahoma, the best thing to do is get on the computer and email Tracy George at the Oklahoma Parole Board at tracy.george@ppb.ok.gov, or call (405) 602-5863. The parole board has told the DAs that public opinion will be the determining factor.



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