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Oklahoma parole board to consider shorter sentences for 12 inmates

Jul 12, 2015 | by Lynn Powell

The state Pardon and Parole Board at it’s June meeting addressed a backlog of requests by denying more than 100 inmates a chance to have their sentence commuted and granting hearings to 12.
An Oklahoma City woman sentenced to 30 years in prison for allowing child abuse of her daughter while the actual abuser received a two-year sentence is among a dozen Oklahoma inmates recently given a chance to have their sentences cut short.
The state Pardon and Parole Board at its June meeting addressed a backlog of requests by denying more than 100 inmates a chance to have their sentence commuted and granting hearings to 12, including Tondalo Hall, a mother of three who has gained national attention for her lengthy sentence, which human rights activists say unfairly punishes a victim of domestic violence.

The state Pardon and Parole Board at it's June meeting addressed a backlog of requests by denying more than 100 inmates a chance to have their sentence commuted and granting hearings to 12.

by Jennifer Palmer Published: July 12, 2015

An Oklahoma City woman sentenced to 30 years in prison for allowing child abuse of her daughter while the actual abuser received a two-year sentence is among a dozen Oklahoma inmates recently given a chance to have their sentences cut short.

The state Pardon and Parole Board at its June meeting addressed a backlog of requests by denying more than 100 inmates a chance to have their sentence commuted and granting hearings to 12, including Tondalo Hall, a mother of three who has gained national attention for her lengthy sentence, which human rights activists say unfairly punishes a victim of domestic violence.

Hall, 31, has served 8 years, while her former boyfriend, who admitted injuring her 3-month-old daughter, was released after two years in the Oklahoman County jail.

Others granted a hearing include two men serving life without parole for drug trafficking who were featured in a May 3 story in The Oklahoman that examined mandatory, non-parole eligible sentences given to non-violent drug offenders. Leland Dodd, 61, has served more than 23 years for conspiracy to traffic marijuana. Donnie Daniel, 53, has served 18 years for trafficking methamphetamine with two prior drug convictions.

In Oklahoma, commutation is a rare act of mercy that changes the length of an inmate's sentence. The parole board can shorten a sentence or recommend an inmate be released for time served. To be eligible, an inmate must have at least 20 years remaining on their sentence.

Even if the parole board recommends commutation, final decisions are made by the governor. There hasn't been a commutation granted in the state since August 2012, according to the governor's office.

The parole board hasn't addressed any commutations in over a year, choosing instead to deal with a backlog of requests for pardons. The board has also struggled to fill its executive director position. Former Lt. Gov. Jari Askins served as interim director for six months. Van Guillotte filled the post March 30 but resigned after six weeks. The board is expected to announce a new director this month.

Parole board members considered 166 inmates for commutation at its June meeting, weeding out all but 16. Of those, the requests from four inmates were postponed until August and 12 were granted a hearing at a later, yet to be announced, date.

Seven of those granted hearings, including Dodd and Daniel, are serving prison time for drug offenses.

The board granted a hearing to just one violent offender, Keith L. Brown, 32. When Brown was 16, he shot a 64-year-old man during an attempted robbery in Guthrie, court records show. He's serving a life sentence for shooting with intent to kill. Shortly after his conviction, Brown escaped from the Logan County jail through an air conditioner vent, a crime that tacked on an additional five years.

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