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ACLU comments on denied parole for drug offender

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Posted at 4:43 PM, May 17, 2016
and last updated 2016-05-18 11:56:20-04

TULSA (AP) -- A 66-year-old Oklahoma inmate serving life in prison for possessing an ounce of cocaine has been denied parole.

The state's Pardon and Parole Board voted 5-0 Tuesday to deny parole to Larry Yarbrough, who's been imprisoned since 1997.

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Yarbrough recently had his sentence commuted by Gov. Mary Fallin to life in prison with the possibility of parole.

He was among just three commutations the governor issued since 2012, and Fallin said she did so in his case because he was sentenced "at a time when Oklahoma's drug laws were overly harsh, when jurors had no choice but to sentence him to life in prison without the possibility of parole."

The ACLU of Oklahoma sent a statement regarding Yarbrough, "After nearly two decades in prison for a non-violent offense, to say that Mr. Yarbrough has paid his debt to society would be an understatement. Mr. Yarbrough is a model prisoner. By shirking their responsibility to correct this excessively harsh sentence, the Pardon and Parole Board committed a grave injustice with implications that reach far beyond this individual case. Their cruel indifference to the needless suffering of a man who poses no danger to society is a far greater crime than any offense committed by Mr. Yarbrough. Their decision offers further evidence of a flawed and unjust system and casts serious doubt on the Pardon and Parole Board’s ability to fairly conduct the duties with which it is charged."

About four dozen Oklahoma prisoners are serving similar sentences for nonviolent drug-related crimes.

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