Oklahoma Uncaged

Oklahoma, the state with the highest incarceration rate in the U.S., released 462 prison inmates this week in the largest single-day commutation of sentences in U.S. history. An additional 65 inmates in Oklahoma’s total prison population of 26,000 are scheduled for release. Voters passed a ballot initiative in 2016 to change simple drug possession and low-level property crimes from felonies to misdemeanors. Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt signed a bill this year retroactively adjusting sentences for inmates already serving time for non-violent crimes—a move that will save Oklahoma taxpayers about $11.9 million. The prisoners released have already served an average of three years behind bars—but some faced much, much longer sentences. “It feels amazing to be on the other side of the fence,” said one woman who was released after a 2018 drug conviction that originally came with a 15-year sentence.