Last year Speaker of the House Kris Steele sponsored HB 2131, which could make substantial changes on the ways paroles are handled in Oklahoma.

The bill, which focuses solely on non-violent offenders, allows the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board to make recommendations for parole which are then sent to the Governor for approval. The change is that if the Governor does not act on a favorable recommendation within 30 days, the parole is automatically deemed granted.

In addition, the bill increased the number of offenders who would be eligible for an electronic monitoring program, established minimum requirements for members of the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board and expanded community sentencing programs. It was expected that all of these measures would reduce prison overcrowding and also allow more resources to be focused toward dangerous and high risk offenders.

Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt released the opinion following a request by Sen. Josh Brescheen.

The opinion states that the portion of the law making the parole approval automatic after the 30 day period is unconstitutional because the Oklahoma Constitution grants the Governor the power to grant parole and does not address any required time limit.