Violent criminals could get out sooner

Violent criminals could get out sooner

LAWTON, Okla._The Department of Corrections' board met in Lawton Thursday to discuss a possible change that could release some violent offenders earlier.

Earlier this week, Governor Mary Fallin recommended that the Department of Corrections change the way it calculates 'good behavior credits' for inmates convicted of crimes that require them to serve at least 85 percent of their sentences. Right now, those credits aren't accumulated until the inmate has reached that 85 percent level. The change would allow the credits to start accumulating the day they enter prison.

Oklahoma Department of Corrections director Robert Patton says if the change took effect, it would impact about 6,000 inmates across the state. But the board took no action on the governor's recommendation, saying they needed more time to study it.

"It will impact some offenders that have very long sentences. It could impact them more greatly than others, but for the average offender, if this board adopts this policy, it will affect about six months of release time," Patton explained.

There were 312 inmates in county jails across the state, waiting to be transferred to the DOC Thursday. Patton says the change would help clear the backlog.

One of the major concerns being tossed around in the public is will these offenders end up in prison again once they have been released earlier.

"In Oklahoma, I can tell you the statistics bear that out. Non-85 percent versus 85 percent. Non-85 percent recidivism rate is about 24 percent. Eighty-five percent recidivism is about 21 percent," Patton explained.

Patton says he does agree with the governor on her recommendation.

"I believe she is interpreting the law correctly. However, as the board stated, they want the opportunity. I want the opportunity to review this further with the attorney general and the governor's office to make sure that we get it right," Patton said.

There will be no cost to implement the change other than staff time. There has been no deadline set for the board to act on the governor's recommendation.

The Oklahoma prison population has increased by 1,200 inmates this year. To keep up with that, more than 100 new corrections officers have started working for the DOC across the state since January.