Gov. Fallin hosts reception for commutation recipients released from prison last month

At the State Capitol Wednesday, Gov. Fallin hosted 30 commutation recipients who were previously serving time for non-violent drug offenses. (Caroline Vandergriff/KOKH)

Governor Mary Fallin hosted a reception at the Oklahoma State Capitol today for the 30 men and women whose sentences were commuted last month.

They were serving time for non-violent, low-level drug possession charges.

“These 30 commutations represent about 700 years of eliminated incarceration in the state of Oklahoma,” said Kris Steele with Oklahomans for Criminal Justice Reform.

The commutation recipients would be in prison right now, if not for the intervention of criminal justice advocates, the Pardon and Parole Board, and Governor Mary Fallin. They were serving time for drug offenses that would now be considered misdemeanors, thanks to State Questions 780.

“Had I not been granted this commutation, I would still be serving time for three more years,” said Kayla Jeffries, who was sentenced to 20 years in prison as a first-time, non-violent drug offender.

The mother of two spent 10 years behind bars before she was released. With her sentence commuted to time served, she was able to spend Christmas with her two daughters.

“It was just a lot of cuddling, a lot of playing, a lot of laughing – I just can’t get enough of them,” she said.

Jeffries has already started working as a cosmetologist at a salon in Grove, with a new outlook on life.

“Prison really opened my eyes to all those things so I don’t take a moment for granted anymore,” said Jeffries. “I just praise God for every step I take outside prison and for all the time I get with my family and my children.”

She now plans to advocate for criminal justice reform, a movement Gov. Fallin hopes the next governor continues.

“I hope we’ll continue to put a big emphasis on getting more services and treatment and spending more money on those things that can really keep people out of the prison system,” she said. “I have talked to Governor Elect Stitt and I’m hopeful. He seems very interested in carrying on the tradition we’ve started here, the criminal justice reform.”

In her time in office, Gov. Fallin signed more than a dozen new pieces of criminal justice reform into law. Oklahoma has the highest incarceration rate in the United States.

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