Controversy over Oklahoma's Calculation of Prisoners' Release Dates
High-profile crimes allegedly committed by two former Oklahoma Department of Corrections (DOC) prisoners after they were released early from prison has generated controversy over how the DOC calculates release dates.
Desmond La'don Campbell was convicted of attempted kidnapping and sentenced to 12 years in prison. Between 2007 and 2012, he accumulated a total of three minor disciplinary infractions, the latest of which resulted in the forfeiture of 365 days of earned credits. Earned credits are credits toward the completion of a sentence which prisoners earn through good behavior or achievements such as earning a GED or college credits. They can be forfeited due to misconduct and forfeited credits can be restored if the prisoner returns to good behavior.
Campbell's prison records show that 357 of the forfeited credits were restored in April 2014, resulting in his near immediate release from
prison. His records show 393 days remaining on his sentence in March 2014. In April, after he spent an additional 21 days in prison, earned 15 additional credits, and had 357 credits restored, it dropped to zero.
Following his release, Campbell became a suspect in a series of rapes in Tulsa which occurred in June 2014. Law enforcement officials were planning on charging him with 23 counts of sexual assault against seven women when Campbell was involved in a car crash on June 29, 2014, that resulted in his death on July 8, 2014.
The restoration of Campbell's earned credits and subsequent early release prompted the Tulsa World to request records from the DOC on the restoration of credits. In May 2014, DOC officials admitted releasing 740 prisoners following the reinstatement of earned credits previously forfeited due to misconduct. They denied that it was a new program for early release.
"The Earned Credit program has been around for 15 to 20 years," said Kevin Gross, Chairman of the Board of Corrections. "But we were not as efficient as we could have been in keeping track of the credits."
Gross said the DOC was merely streamlining the system for tracking the credits which involves paper records located at each of the individual prisons throughout the state.
Meanwhile, a second prisoner who was released early became a suspect in a high-profile murder. Alton Alexander Nolen, 30, who goes by the Muslim name of Jah'Keem Yisrael, was sentenced to six years in prison for possession of cocaine. He was released after serving less than two years. On September 29, 2014, he was fired from his job at Vaughan Foods. This allegedly angered him so much that he beheaded one former co-worker at the food processing plant with a knife and slashed another. Prosecutors expressed dismay at his early release.
"Our intent was to incarcerate him much longer than a year and eleven months," said Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater. "This case perfectly illustrates the problem with the Department of Corrections. If it's not an 85 percent crime, we have no idea how long a person will actually spend in prison."
The early release of prisoners is being driven in part by the cost of housing in county jails prisoners awaiting transfer to the crowded prison system. The DOC is obligated to pay the counties $27 per prisoner per day out of an already strained budget. In August 2013, there were 1,688 such prisoners--an annual cost of $16.4 million. A year later, the number had dropped to 184.