State Question 762 would remove governor from parole process for non-violent offenders

TULSA - Eight years later, Catherine Doak still thinks about it every day -- her daughter's violent murder.

"He beat her beyond recognition, he stabbed her several times and he cut her throat," said Doak.

It began with a business robbery, committed by a man who had just been released from prison where he was serving time for a non-violent offense.    

"These people need to serve the full extent of their sentences," said Doak.

But it's those types of people some say may get out of prison earlier if voters say yes to State Question 762, which would remove Gov. Mary Fallin from the pardon and parole process for non-violent offenders.

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"If people really look behind the language about what this really means, they won't pass this," said Tim Harris, Tulsa county district attorney.

Harris and many other district attorneys across the state say removing the governor from the process would leave the pardon and parole board with little or no oversight.

"The pardon and parole board doesn't answer to anybody but the governor, and if you take the governor out of the parole process you have appointed people who are letting people out of jail," said Harris.

Oklahoma House Speaker Kris Steele has a much different view.  He pushed this question onto the ballot. 

Steele says reviewing every non-violent case takes up too much of the governor's time.

"If the governor could spend more of her time and resources focusing on the more violent cases I think that we would be much better served from a public safety standpoint, because truly those are the individuals that we need extra scrutiny for," said Steele.

But Harris says the non-violent offenders need scrutiny as well.

"(These are) drug dealers, D.U.I. drivers under the influence, child pornographers," said Harris.

"Now if Mr. Harris or other elected officials in the state of Oklahoma have a problem with what is currently considered a violent offense versus what is labeled a non-violent offense then that is something that can be tweaked legislatively," said Steele.

Steele also believes removing the governor from the non-violent parole process will speed it up, getting inmates out of jail by as much as six months earlier, saving the state money.

"That six months is time that that person could have otherwise been out of prison under supervision and not being incarcerated at the cost of $50 to $65 a day," said Steele.

But Doak says she would happily pay that price to keep them in prison and away from people like her daughter.  

"I would advise the community to vote no, vote no," said Doak.

So where does Fallin stand?  She says she does not support 762.

Fallin says now is not the time to remove her from the pardon and parole board, since district attorneys across the state have raised questions about some of their practices.

Unlike that issue, there's another question on the November ballot, 765, which would seemingly give the governor more power.  

It would get rid of the Oklahoma Human Services Commission, which oversees DHS, that would clear the way for the governor to hire and fire the DHS executive director.

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