This timeline tracks developments in the Oklahoma Department of Corrections’ effort to give early releases to more prison inmates through exceptions and changes to policies. Click on links to see documents related to decisions and cases. Read and click on notes, highlighted in yellow, explaining key parts.
2013: DOC early-release and sentencing policy
Originally, department policy prevented offenders with an active misconduct from having their credits restored, limited the amount of restored credits to 365 days and prohibited those serving time for 85 percent crimes from having lost credits restored It also prohibited violent or sex offenders from receiving early- release credits, and prevented offenders serving split-life sentences or aggravated drug traffickers from receiving earned credits. See highlights.
Nov. 21, 2013: Board of Corrections meeting minutes
The state Board of Corrections was looking for ways to empty the “jail backup,” composed of inmates in county jails awaiting transfers to prisons. To make room for them, the corrections department could release offenders by restoring their lost early-released credits. See highlights.
January 2014: State hires new corrections director
The corrections board votes to hire Robert Patton, former corrections official in Arizona, as director of the Oklahoma Department of Corrections. Patton officially begins work on Feb.18.
March 7, 2014: Memo to Robert Patton
Laura Pitman, then-deputy director of institutions, and Ed Evans, then-associate director of field operations, send Patton a request that he approve an exception to the department’s restoration of early-release credits policy. See highlights.
March 10, 2014: Memo from Associate Director Ed Evans
With the exception approved, Evans sends out a memo to all facility heads notifying them of the change, along with a list of offenders identified for having credits restored and instructions for their release. A similar memo followed a day later with instructions to restore lost credits. Evans would send out weekly memos with lists of inmates.
March 18, 2014: Prison population swells
The corrections department begins bringing in prisoners from the jail backup. Within two months, the prison population jumps by 1,500 inmates, pushing many facilities beyond official capacity. Prisoners are bunked in gyms, day rooms and other common areas.
April 3, 2014: Board of Corrections minutes
Pitman tells the Board of Corrections that restoring early-release credits was phase one of emptying the county jail backup, and that 436 offenders were discharged between March 10 and 28 through restored credits. See highlight.
April 4, 2014: Employee newsletter
In an employee newsletter, Patton explains that steps to relieve the jail backup include the restoration of credits to offenders.
April 21, 2014: Release of offender
Desmond Campbell, an inmate serving time for charges of robbery, kidnapping and assault with a dangerous weapon, has nearly a year’s worth of early-release credits restored under an exception to restored-credit policies and is discharged from prison.
April 25, 2014: Update on early-released offenders
Around 740 offenders have been discharged as a result of restored credits. See highlight.
June 3, 2014: Relaxing of credit policies
The corrections department doubles the number of credits awarded to inmates for time served and eliminates the 365 maximum credits that can be restored. It also shortens time required to earn continued good-conduct achievement credits and offenders convicted of violent and sex offenses to be given good-conduct credits. See highlights.
July 8, 2014: Offender dies
Desmond Campbell dies from injuries in a single-car crash on June 29. Campbell is suspected in the rapes of at least seven women over a month. The Tulsa World reports Campbell was one of the prisoners released under the credit restoration program.
July 11, 2014: Board chairman denies policy change
The Tulsa World quotes Board of Corrections Chairman Kevin Gross as saying the releases are not the result of new policy.
Aug. 28, 2014: Eight years of credits for offender
Antonio R. Mason, convicted of second-degree murder in 1996, is restored more than eight years worth of credits, despite receiving more than two-dozen misconducts – 10 of which were high-level Class-X misconducts. Mason is released from prison.
Sept. 9, 2014: Changes to good-conduct policy
The corrections department loosens policy again. Now, offenders with a pending misconduct can still be awarded continued good-conduct achievement credits. See highlight.
Oct. 6, 2014: Corrections ties inmate’s release to old policy
The Oklahoman reports on Mason’s release. Corrections department spokeswoman Terri Watkins says the release is part of a decades-old program.
Oct. 31, 2014: Memo from field support manager
Pitman, division manager of field support, sends out a memo to all facility heads, with an attached list of offenders to be signed off for release through restored credits. Attached are instructions and definitions showing how the department has classified the offenders. Memo suggests urgency in releasing sex and violent offenders.
Nov. 5, 2014: Changes to policy for “split-life sentence” inmates
The corrections department again revises its offender credit and sentencing policy, allowing credits restored to those serving split-life sentences and aggravated drug trafficking. The revision also doubles how many credits can be restored, from 365 days to 730.
Dec. 10-11, 2014: Release of sex offenders
Ricky D. Smothers, 58, is released on lifetime probation Dec. 10, and Leonard C. Hendricks, 47, the next day. Smothers was convicted in 1997 of raping his 3-year-old stepdaughter in Lincoln County, and Hendricks of molesting a 5-year-old girl in Muskogee County. Both were among prisoners serving lengthy split-life sentences who were retroactively awarded early-release credits under new policies; they were released on probation for life. Smothers received 4,444 restored credits, or more than 12 years, and Hendricks received 1,567 credits, or more than four years, corrections records show.