Nearly 1,500 inmates have been freed from prison since March under an early-release system restoring “earned credits” lost due to misconduct, data show.
The Department of Corrections data was provided in response to a Tulsa World request under the Open Records Act. The World requested the information in July after discovering that one of the inmates released was Desmond La’don Campbell, the suspect in a series of sexual assaults across Tulsa in June.
Campbell died as a result of a car crash as authorities were planning to charge him with 23 felony counts for sexual assaults across the city.
He had been released from a medium-security Oklahoma prison in April, when the Department of Corrections restored to his record almost a year’s worth of credits he’d previously lost due to misconduct.
Department of Corrections officials maintain this is not a new policy but simply a means of improving efficiency for a system currently about 10 percent over its capacity.
It took the agency more than three months to provide the World with a list of the inmates’ names and DOC numbers.
Spokesman Jerry Massie said the agency is currently handling about 35 records requests, many involving large amounts of data.
“This particular request required hand-searching of files at each facility,” he said. “It wasn’t just something you could just do a computer search for.”
Laura Pitman, division manager for field support, told the state Board of Corrections in May that at that time, 740 offenders had been released as a result of the reinstatement of early-release credits. The data provided Friday to the World showed 1,497 inmates released under the credit system as of Sept. 19.
Prison inmates in Oklahoma can earn credits toward their time served for good behavior or achievements such as earning a GED or college credit, and they can lose those credits for committing infractions.
The system depends largely on paper records that are periodically reviewed by staff.
The Earned Credit program has been around for 15 to 20 years, Board of Corrections Chairman Kevin Gross told the World in July, “but we were not as efficient as we could have been in keeping track of the credits.”
Streamlining the earned-credit release process is one factor that has allowed DOC to greatly reduce the backup of inmates awaiting transfer from county jails to prisons. Last August, it stood at 1,688 inmates — there are now 184.
The backup in county jails had been an expensive problem for DOC in recent years, and Director Robert Patton said he planned to tackle it when he was hired this year. The agency had to reimburse each county jail $27 per inmate per day.
But reducing that backlog at county jails has increased the total prison population, which currently has about 1,500 more inmates than at the same time last year.
Prison records show that immediately prior to Campbell’s release, DOC restored 357 days worth of credits that he’d lost in 2012 due to misconduct.
Because Campbell was convicted in 2006 and legally considered to have completed his prison sentence, he was released without the supervision of an Oklahoma parole or probation officer.
Prison reform laws, known as the Justice Reinvestment Initiative, passed in 2012 specified that anyone in Oklahoma sentenced after Nov. 1 of that year was to receive nine months of mandatory supervision by DOC’s probation and parole officers upon release.
Cary Aspinwall 918-581-8477