Communications & Public Affairs
Nov. 1, 2019

Contact: Wes Carter, Press Secretary
Oklahoma House Democratic Caucus
(405) 962-7674

House Democrats Praise Commutation Hearing as Crucial Step in CJR

OKLAHOMA CITY – Oklahoma House Democratic Caucus members released the following statements after attending today’s commutation hearing. The hearing is being called “the largest commutation in U.S. History” after 527 Oklahoma inmates had their sentences commuted. This special commutation hearing is a direct result of House Bill 1269, authored by Rep. Jason Dunnington (D-OKC) and Rep. Jon. Echols (R-OKC).

“There is an opportunity for this hearing to be a real turning point for our communities,” said Minority Leader Emily Virgin (D-Norman). “We still have mountains to move when it comes to criminal justice reform in Oklahoma, but my hope is that years from now, we don’t look back at today as the end point but as the beginning of true change in the way our criminal justice system operates.”

“Listening to the 527 names being read out loud left me with a heavy but hopeful feeling,” said Rep. Kelly Albright (D-OKC). “How many of them had children who might now have the opportunity for reunification? How many now have the opportunity to stop the generational trauma of incarceration? This commutation was a big step in a positive direction, but more steps are necessary. We must remember that efforts at preventing initial incarceration have the best opportunity to stop the ballooning incarceration crisis we are facing. If we truly want to be a top ten state, that starts with providing services that help ALL Oklahomans to be successful in our society, such as diversion programs, mental health and substance abuse courts, access to health care, and especially access to a high-quality public education. The investments in Oklahomans must continue, not only with DOC, but with the Departments of Health, Education, Human Services, and others in order to continue to address our still outrageously high incarceration rate.”

“Today is a huge step in reforming the way our system treats people for non-violent crimes,” said Rep. Chelsey Branham (D-Edmond). “More than 520 people will be reunited with their families and have the opportunity to become contributing members of society, because of the votes of the people of Oklahoma. We must continue to provide the support Oklahomans need to be successful and to keep working to pass meaningful reforms.”

“I have worked and looked eye-to-eye with many women at Kate Barnard through my work with Girl Scouts Western Oklahoma and Oklahoma Messages Project in the very room where the Pardon and Parole Board meeting was held today,” said Rep. Cyndi Munson (D-OKC). “It was surreal and incredibly moving to hear the 527 names of Oklahomans who will be commuted, released, and reunited with their families very soon.

“What happened today shows what is possible when we prioritize reform for our criminal justice system. We have made improvements, but we still have more to do. Let’s build on today’s momentum and keep going.”

“I am proud to stand with my colleagues in the House and Senate as we continue to improve incarceration rates in Oklahoma” said Rep. Ajay Pittman (D-OKC). “I am especially proud of the 70 ladies in Taft that worked hard to be included in this commutation.”