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Oklahoma commutes 527 prison sentences — page 1 
Gov. Stitt signed the largest commutation in U.S. history.
For a long time, Oklahoma had the highest rate of incarceration in the U,S. Incarceration refers to the condition of being in prison. Until recently, more than one percent of all Oklahomans were in prison. But on November 4th, Governor Kevin Stitt changed that by commuting the sentences of 527 non-violent prisoners. To commute a sentence means to reduce the sentence, often to time served, thereby freeing a prisoner immediately. This was the largest mass commutation in U.S. history. The main reasons for doing this was to reduce overcrowding in prisons, while giving non-violent offenders a chance to live a better life.

Oklahoma began this effort three years ago, before Stitt was governor. Oklahoma was known as a state that had one of the strictest criminal codes in the country. Oklahoma also spent a lot of money every year running its prisons. But in 2016, Oklahoma lawmakers reclassified many felony crimes, turning them into misdemeanors, a less serious crime. For example, possessing a small amount of drugs, once a felony, is now a misdemeanor. This meant fewer people went into the prison system, saving the state a lot of money. Oklahoma then put a lot of this money into mental health and drug abuse programs.

Many of the people who were released on November 4th had committed crimes that were once felonies, but are now misdemeanors. All of them had served at least three years in prison already.

When he was running for governor, Kevin Stitt promised to lower Oklahoma’s prison rate even further. After being elected, he helped push through a law changing the way the state’s parole system works. This opened the door for the recent mass commutation, which will save Oklahoma nearly $12 million. On the day the prisoners were released, he said: “Today we are implementing the will of the people.”
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