OKLAHOMA CITY — A key criminal justice reform initiated by voters is bringing unprecedented opportunity for hundreds of non-violent Oklahoma inmates to become productive citizens. In preparation for the release of more than 700 current inmates in November, the governor’s office and several state agencies, volunteer organizations, and community partners, are working together to provide essential resources to these inmates whose sentences will be commuted as provided for in House Bill 1269, which passed last session to bring these sentences in line with the will of the voters. The law allows the Pardon and Parole Board to recommend to the governor commutations for non-violent felony sentences now considered misdemeanors after State Question 780 was approved by voters.
Starting Oct. 10 at Eddie Warrior Correctional Center, a minimum-security female prison, and Jess Dunn Correctional Center, a minimum-security male prison, in Taft, inmates slated for potential commutation and those nearing release will attend “transition fairs.”
These events, to be held inside 28 facilities, will connect inmates with organizations that provide assistance with housing, transportation, employment, mentoring, health care, mental health care and other resources offenders need after release.
The goal of these fairs is to ease inmates’ transition to life on the outside by connecting them with the services they need in advance.
“It is important that we provide our inmates with the support and resources they need in order to see them successfully reintegrate into society and become contributing members of our communities,” said Governor Kevin Stitt. “By hosting resource fairs within our prisons, we are working to connect inmates with information and tools to help them as they leave the criminal justice system and return to their families and friends.”
“We want to provide these inmates every opportunity to return to society with the necessary compliment of resources and tools to ensure their successful reentry and become productive citizens wherever they go,” Interim Director Scott Crow said.
ODOC case managers already counsel each inmate before release, providing them with a list of available resources. These fairs, however, are a huge leap forward, bringing volunteers and nonprofits directly into prisons to meet with inmates before release.
The transition fairs will continue for two weeks. Volunteers and organizations wanting to get involved can email firstname.lastname@example.org.