Oklahoma City, OK – More than 450 Oklahoma inmates were granted early prison releases on Monday, in what Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt boasted was the largest single-day mass commutation in the history of the United States.
On Nov. 1, the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board forwarded Stitt’s office a list of 527 inmates who the board unanimously recommended for sentence commutation, NBC News reported.
Stitt approved them all.
Although 65 of the inmates remained in custody due to other detainers, 462 offenders were released from prisons across the state on Monday, according to NBC News.
"This marks an important milestone of Oklahomans wanting to focus the state's efforts on helping those with nonviolent offenses achieve better outcomes in life," the governor said in a statement on Monday.
"The historic commutation of individuals in Oklahoma's prisons is only possible because our state agencies, elected officials, and partnering organizations put aside politics and worked together to move the needle," Stitt noted.
The mass release was the result of a ballot proposal approved by voters in 2016, The Oklahoman reported.
The legislation downgraded many property crimes and drug offenses from felony-level offenses to misdemeanors.
It also established an expedited commutation process for inmates who were sentenced to prison for felonies that were reduced to misdemeanors while they were serving time, The Oklahoman reported.
Under the legislation, offenders with old convictions on their records were also provided with a simplified expungement process.
"Tens of thousands of Oklahomans will be eligible to apply to have their felony taken off their record, which will open up new and hopefully more fruitful employment opportunities for them," Oklahomans for Criminal Justice Reform Executive Director Kris Steele told The Oklahoman in May.
Steele declared that the law change “opens up a lot of opportunities for individuals who have that scarlet letter hanging around their neck to have that removed and it affords those individuals the opportunity to move forward in life in a very healthy and positive way," according to the paper.
Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board Executive Director Steve Bickley said that by unanimously voting to commute the hundreds of sentences, the board was “fulfilling the will of Oklahomans,” NBC News reported.
“The goal of this project has been more than just the release of low-level, nonviolent offenders, but the successful re-entry of these individuals back into society,” Bickley added.
The released inmates were given state-issued identification cards or driver’s licenses to help them re-enter society, NBC News reported.
"We really want you to have a successful future," Stitt told a crowd of released inmates and their family members outside of the Dr. Eddie Warrior Correctional Center. "This is the first day of the rest of your life… Let's make it so you guys do not come back here again."
Leigh Silverhorn was released from Kate Barnard Community Correctional Facility after serving just six months of her 10-year drug possession sentence, FOX News reported.
She claimed she was busted with approximately $5 worth of marijuana, according to KOKH.
“I’m excited,” Silverhorn said as she left the prison nearly a decade earlier than planned. “I’m ready. I’m ready to go.”
Shannon Brown was sentenced to 12 years in prison for drug possession, but walked out of prison on Monday after serving less than two years.
"Thank God for the 780 law and great people who voted for it,” Brown declared, according to KOKH.
Lana Lemus has served approximately three years of her 10-year drug possession sentence.
“It’s the great thing that the governor is doing so we can be home with our kids,” Lemus told KOCO.
As long as none of the hundreds of released prisoners reoffend, the state will save nearly $12 million due to their early releases, FOX News reported.