Oklahoma State Senate
Communications Division
State Capitol
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma 73105

For Immediate Release: August 22, 2011

Sen. Johnson responds to AG’s comments on life without parole for nonviolent drug crimes

“In his press release last Friday, Attorney General Scott Pruitt made factually untrue statements with a political spin intended to distract from the real issue -- the extreme cost of unnecessarily locking up people for life for nonviolent drug related crimes.

“The true facts in the Larry Yarbrough case were diligently reviewed by an eminently qualified Pardon and Parole Board. After careful deliberation, the Board voted to recommend to Governor Fallin commutation of Larry Yarborough’s life sentence to 42 years. The Boardspent significant time reviewing this information in anticipation of the scrutiny this case is receiving now. In fact, some of the members of the present board were already extremely familiar with the case, since they were serving on the Board in 2002, when it voted unanimously to commute Larry’s sentence to 20 years, a recommendation that then-Gov. Keating unfortunately refused to follow. The simple truth is that the Board is a great deal more familiar with the facts of Larry Yarborough’s case than Attorney General Pruitt is.

“The AG’s lengthy and unsubstantiated statements appear to be intended to force the Governor to reject the Board’s recommendation, regardless of its merit. Such behavior is totally unacceptable political grandstanding by the AG. I trust that the Governor cannot be duped by such tactics into foregoing her fiduciary duty to taxpayers to correct such a wasteful practice in these tough economic times.

“I do, however, completely agree with Attorney General Pruitt when he said, ‘The discussion of criminal justice reform may be necessary in Oklahoma .’ It certainly is a necessary discussion, and it is starting now. My SB 986 will help begin that discussion. Its goal is to address the tremendous costs to the state of incarcerating the 48 people who are presently serving LWOP sentences for drug crimes. We will accomplish this through a process similar to that utilized by the Board last week. Best estimates are that, by the time these 48 people age and die in prison, Oklahoma will have spent more than $50.6 million on them in housing and medical costs alone. In many cases the crimes for which they have been convicted involved less than $500 worth of drugs. SB 986 will also eliminate this punishment in the future.

It is time to be smarter about how we use taxpayer money. This is no time to be justifying the waste of taxpayer money with emotional arguments based on false information intended to provoke public fear. Instead I am here and now calling for the end to the use of misinformation intended to confuse policy makers and the public. Let’s keep the discussion rational and factual, and let’s start being smart on crime for a change.”

 For more information, contact:
Sen. Johnson: (405) 521-5531

Inon: Horizontal Blue Band

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