Things That Matter

Over 400 Oklahoma Inmates Were Released In Largest Commutation In History And Their Stories Are Powerful

On Monday, more than 400 Oklahoma inmates were released from prison following the nation’s largest single-day mass commutation in history. The Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board unanimously voted to commute the sentences of 527 state inmates. Yesterday, 462 of them were able to walk free while 65 are being held on detainer. 

Governor Kevin Stitt, a Republican, former mortgage company CEO, and criminal justice reform advocate, has pledged to step away from outdated policies. Oklahoma has the second-highest incarceration (after Louisiana) in the United States, according to the Sentencing Project.

The freed inmates are all low-level or non-violent offenders who may not have been commuted without Oklahoma voters’ approving criminal justice proposals in 2016. 

Oklahoma governor greets freed inmates at a woman’s prison.

Stitt said he believes the commutation will give many residents a “second chance” at a news conference. 

“This marks an important milestone of Oklahomans wanting to focus the state’s efforts on helping those with nonviolent offenses achieve better outcomes in life,” Stitt said, according to NBC News. “The historic commutation of individuals in Oklahoma’s prisons is only possible because our state agencies, elected officials, and partnering organizations put aside politics and worked together to move the needle.”

The governor attended Dr. Eddie Warrior Center, an all-women’s prison, where now-former inmates were emotionally embracing family and friends. 

“We really want you to have a successful future,” Stitt told the crowd. “This is the first day of the rest of your life. … Let’s make it so you guys do not come back here again.”

The state plans on going beyond just releasing inmates.

“With this vote, we are fulfilling the will of Oklahomans,” Steve Bickley, executive director of the parole board, said in a statement Friday. “However, from Day One, the goal of this project has been more than just the release of low-level, nonviolent offenders, but the successful re-entry of these individuals back into society.”

The state government is not just releasing the inmates, but also making sure they receive a proper government-issued driver’s license or ID card. These are essential items that allow inmates to reintegrate back into society, making jobs and housing more attainable. 

“It has been a moving experience to see our state and community partners help connect our inmates with the resources they need for a successful reentry and I thank Governor Stitt, DOC Director Scott Crow, and the many local nonprofits, churches, and job creators that stepped up to ensure these inmates have every opportunity for success,” Bickley said. 

Voters usher in a new era of criminal justice reform in Oklahoma.

 In 2016, Oklahoma voters approved a ballot measure by a 16 percentage point margin to decrease prison rolls, and to downgrade drug and property crimes from felonies to misdemeanors. 

“Basically, in Oklahoma, we’re just warehousing people in prison, and we’re not trying to rehabilitate anybody because of budget constraints,” Bobby Cleveland, a Republican state representative and chairman of the Public Safety Committee, told the New York Times

Stitt, who was elected in 2018, also signed a bill this year that retroactively adjusted sentences for those who had their charges downgraded. This paved the way for the mass commutation to happen expediently. 

The United States has the highest incarceration in the world.

The United States has the largest prison population in the world. According to the Sentencing Project, the 500 percent increase in incarceration rates over the last 40 years is due to policy not an increase in crime. In fact, crime, especially violent crimes have significantly decreased, dropping by 51 percent to 71 percent between 1993 and 2018, Pew Research notes

“Since the official beginning of the War on Drugs in the 1980s, the number of people incarcerated for drug offenses in the U.S. skyrocketed from 40,900 in 1980 to 452,964 in 2017,” the Sentencing Project claims. “Today, there are more people behind bars for a drug offense than the number of people who were in prison or jail for any crime in 1980. The number of people sentenced to prison for property and violent crimes has also increased even during periods when crime rates have declined.”

Unnecessarily high incarceration rates have negative effects on various communities. Moreover, they specifically harm communities of color who are often targets of law enforcement despite numerous studies that show races and ethnicities commit crimes at roughly the same rates. 

While people of color are 37 percent of the United States population, they make up 67 percent of the prison population. Black men are six times more likely to be incarcerated as white men while Latinx men are twice as likely — both groups face harsher sentences for committing the same crimes as their white peers. 

Oklahoma, a state where Trump swept every county in 2016, illuminates how criminal justice reform has become a bipartisan issue — simply too many people are affected for the issue to go unchallenged. 

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Authorities Finally File Charges Against Teen Who Killed Monique Muñoz, Her Family Hopes He’s Tried As an Adult

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Authorities Finally File Charges Against Teen Who Killed Monique Muñoz, Her Family Hopes He’s Tried As an Adult

Credit: chulothelabel/Instagram
UPDATED: April 8th, 2021

Finally, Monique Muñoz’s family is getting closer to seeing justice. After over a month of rallying, gathering, and mourning, Muñoz’s family is finally seeing a light at the end of the tunnel.

On Wednesday, the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office announced that they had officially filed charges against the 17-year-old responsible for the deadly crash that killed Muñoz.

The charges against the unnamed teen came over a month after the fatal crash on February 17th. Because the teen is a juvenile, authorities are not releasing any more information detailing the specifics of the charges. Authorities originally arrested the teen on suspicion of vehicular manslaughter.

Per ABC News, the teen’s arraignment is set for April 23rd. Up until this point, authorities never contacted Munoz’s family directly. The family was angry and frustrated at authorities for keeping them in the dark.

While it is progress that Los Angeles’s DA has finally charged the teen, the family wishes that authorities would try the 17-year-old as an adult.

“You’re a 17-year-old, driving an adult car, acting like an adult…you should be tried as an adult,” Munoz’s stepfather, Isaac Cardona, said to Good Morning America.

“[The DA] is really lenient on certain crimes, certain criminals, especially juveniles,” said Cardona to ABC 7. “And I’m like, you act like an adult you get treated like one.”

The unnamed teen was driving a Lamborghini Urus when he crashed into Munoz, who was making a left turn.

Photo via LAPD West Traffic

The Lamborghini Urus retails for $218,000. It can go 0 to 62 miles per hour in 3.6 seconds. Some experts estimate that the juvenile was going up to double the 35 mph speed limit in order to incur as much damage as he did.

Here’s to hoping that Los Angeles authorities will do the right thing in enacting justice for Monique Munoz and her family.

ORIGINAL BELOW: March 18th, 2021

Over the weekend, family and friends of Monique Muñoz, as well as members of the Los Angeles community, gathered to mourn the life of a young woman taking from this planet too soon.

The gathering of people became a memorial parade, with supporters showing up in classic cars or on foot. People were holding up signs that read: “Justice for Monique Muñoz” and “Olympic Blvd is NOT a race track”.

Muñoz’s family say they will gather at the site of Monique Muñoz’s death every weekend until the family sees justice.

As background, a 17-year-old driver killed 32-year-old Monique Muñoz while he was speeding in a Lamborghini in the Los Angeles streets. The teen was the son of a Beverly Hills millionaire James Khuri who gifted him the Lamborghini for his birthday.

In the aftermath of Muñoz’s death, James Khuri flooded his social media pages with insensitive pictures of himself looking happy and carefree while Muñoz’s family was grieving. After receiving a flood of negative comments condemning his insensitive behavior, Khuri simply turned off his comments

District Attorney George Gascón has not confirmed that he has brought charges against the teen. Muñoz’s family worried that Khuri would sweep Monique’s death “under the rug”.

While her family waited for justice, some savvy internet believed that James Khuri hired PR and marketing teams to bury negative articles about his son.

But Khuri didn’t get away with his attempts to control the press around his son’s involvement in M’s death. The internet rallied around Muñoz’s family, and soon the hashtag #JusticeForMoniqueMuñoz was trending.

Now, Muñoz’s family is focused on one goal. They want justice for their daughter.

“We have purpose. We have a direction. We have this responsibility to Monique to give her a voice, to speak for her, to give her justice and to just show her that we’re here for her,” said Stephanie Crespin, the victim’s cousin to ABC 7.

District Attorney George Gascón released the following statement to Inside Edition: “Monique’s death is a giant loss for her family, our community, and for all of us as Angelenos. This case was recently presented to our office and is under review. Juvenile court proceedings, records, and case files are confidential pursuant to Welfare & Institutions Code section 827. As such, we are unable to provide further information at this time.”

As for the belated apology that James Khuri wrote on his Instagram at the height of the backlash, Muñoz’s family says they see right through it.

“I’ve seen the interview of the father trying to apologize and give me his sympathy, but no, that’s too fake,” Carol Cardona told L.A. Taco. “He has yet to say anything to me, to us. If he were really sorry, he would have reached out when it all happened.”

And although Khuri’s lawyer previously claimed that Muñoz’s family was in the process of coming to a financial settlement with the Khuris, Carol Cardona put that rumor to rest.

Muñoz’s mother said that the family was not in the process of settling financially with the Khuri family.

“My daughter was killed, she was my everything, she was my best friend, and now she’s gone. Instead of planning her future wedding, I had to plan a funeral for her,” she said. “So no, no amount of money is going to bring my baby back.”

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guy who stole nancy laptop and Attempted to Sell It To the Russians.

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guy who stole nancy laptop and Attempted to Sell It To the Russians.

Photo via DAUPHIN COUNTY PRISON

In case you forgot that there are two Americas, let the case of 22-year-old Riley Williams serve as a reminder.

Williams was one of the far-right insurrectionists that stormed the Capitol on January 6th. But Williams was not just any insurrectionist.

The young woman was wanted by the FBI under suspicion of stealing Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi’s laptop with the intent to sell it to Russian intelligence.

According to a witness–who has been identified as Williams’ ex-boyfriend–the woman “intended to send the computer device to a friend in Russia, who then planned to sell the device to SVR, Russia’s foreign intelligence service.”

Authorities arrested Williamson on January 18th on charges of theft, trespassing and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds.

However, Riley Williams only stayed in jail for a few days before she was released under the care of her mother. Williams will be required to wear an ankle monitor at all times and will only be able to leave her house for work or other authorized reasons.

Williams’ lawyer says that the claims against her client have been “overstated” and stem from the revenge efforts of an angry ex-boyfriend.

But the FBI says they have video evidence of Williams committing the alleged act.

According to the FBI, an ITV documentary shows Williams on-camera as part of the mob that stormed the Capitol. At one point, she is headed towards Speaker Pelosi’s office. The documentary allegedly shows her entering Speaker Pelosi’s office and swiping the laptop.

Investigators also say they have evidence that Williams wrote on free speech social network Discord: “I DOMT (sic) CARE I TOOK NANCY POLESIS (sic) HARD DRIVES I DON’T CARE KILL ME.”

Of the charges, U.S. Magistrate Judge Martin Carlson said: “The gravity of these offenses is great. It cannot be overstated.”

But Williams’ defense team appears to be taking the angle that Williams stormed the Capitol and allegedly stole the laptop at the behest of former President Trump. “It is regrettable that Miss Williams took the president’s bait and went inside the Capitol,” her lawyer told the judge.

Considering Ms. Williams committed literal treason, many people are asking: why isn’t she in jail awaiting her trial?

The outcry over what many consider a double-standard in the justice system has been great. People are pointing out that the justice system treats people who look like Riley Williams with kid gloves, while excessively punishing people of color for lesser offenses.

In particular, people are bringing to light a case that is similar in many ways: the case of Kalief Browder. The parallels of this case are obvious: both suspects were young, both were charged with theft.

But while Kalief Browder allegedly stole a backpack when he 16-years-old and was forced to spend 3 years in Rikers while awaiting trial, Riley Williams was released to the custody of her mother after a few days in jail while being accused of literal treason by the FBI.

It should be noted that, after spending much of his time in Rikers in solitary confinement, Browder committed suicide shortly after his release from prison.

It’s cases like this that show how the class and racial divide in America can literally be the difference between living and dying.

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