Oklahoma parole board OKs largest-ever US mass commutation

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OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Oklahoma will release more than 400 inmates after a state panel on Friday approved what officials say is the largest single-day mass commutation in U.S. history.

The Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board unanimously approved the commutations, and Gov. Kevin Stitt said his office would process the recommendations for final approval.

The board considered 814 cases and recommended 527 inmates for commutation. However, 65 are being held on detainers, leaving 462 inmates to be released on Monday.

"This event is another mark on our historic timeline as we move the needle in criminal justice reform, and my administration remains committed to working with Oklahomans to pursue bold change that will offer our fellow citizens a second chance while also keeping our communities and streets safe," Stitt said in a statement.

Voters approved a state question in 2016 that made simple drug possession and low-level property crimes misdemeanors instead of felonies. Stitt signed a bill earlier this year that applied those sentences retroactively.

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Releasing the inmates will save Oklahoma an estimated $11.9 million over the cost of continuing to keep them behind bars, according to the governor's office.

Pardon and Parole board head Steve Bickley says the mass release is the most on one day since former President Barack Obama commuted the drug sentences of 330 federal prisoners on his last day in office.

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