• Life without parole sentences costing the state

    Updated:
    None - GRANITE, Okla. - Oklahoma prisons are crowded, so some inmates are being released early.

    For example, if someone gets a five-year sentence or less, that person could be out in 90 days.

    FOX23’s Janna Clark found out whose being let out early and why.

    Clark got a letter from an inmate who has no chance of getting out of prison in Granite, Oklahoma, and drove eight hours round-trip to talk to him.

    He argued his sentence is too stiff, and he's taking the spot of a violent criminal.

    FOX23 talked to inmate William Dufries. He's been locked up for 11 years.

    A trooper stopped Dufries for speeding and found 67 pounds of pot in his RV.

    “I was guilty. I was wrong,” he said.

    Dufries previously pleaded guilty to two other drug charges. This time, a jury sentenced him to life without parole for trafficking marijuana.

    “Do you think your sentence is unfair?” asked Clark.

    “The rationale to give someone a life-without-parole sentence for a nonviolent offense, I can't get grips with, it's just wrong,” he said.

    The Department of Corrections said 52 nonviolent inmates are doing life without parole.

    “We sit, and you pay for us to sit here,” he said.

    “Have you seen a lot of violent criminals get out and you don't?” asked Clark.

    “I sit here with no hope of ever going home,” he said.

    The Tulsa County DA prosecutes about 12,000 cases a year, said Steve Kunzweiler, Chief of Criminal Division at Tulsa Co DA's office.

    “How many of those are drug-related?” asked Clark.

    “The majority of cases we deal with have drugs at its root,” he said.

    Because prisons are full, DAs figure out how to prosecute.

    “For me it's separating the people we're angry at versus the people we're afraid of, the violent offenders,” said Kunzweiler.

    If the crime's not violent, prosecutors often start with probation.

    That's putting a great pressure on the system, so much pressure that some inmates get out early.

    FOX23 searched through last year's records.

    Corrections released 250 criminals early in Tulsa County on GPS ankle monitors.

    FOX23 found 70 percent had drug convictions, 22 percent for intent or distributing drugs and on average, the inmates had at least two prior felony convictions.

    So did Dufries.

    “It doesn't add up. It doesn't make sense to me,” said Dufries.

    FOX23 asked state Sen. Brian Crain about it.

    “Should people with drug trafficking convictions be in prison for life without parole?” asked Clark.

    “I'm going to be very reluctant to second guess a jury,” said Crain.

    “It's the revolving door for this many to be convicted and coming, this many have to be let out. Who do you let out?” asked Clark.

    “I want prison to keep those people who scare me or my family and those are the violent offenders,” said Crain.

    Dufries said he never hurt anyone.

    “I've never shot anybody, stabbed anybody, that’s not me,” said Dufries.

    “Do you feel you're taking the spot of a violent criminal who should be here?” asked Clark.

    “Yes, there's got a better way to spend taxpayers' money,” said Dufries.

    The cost to incarcerate is hefty. In the 10 years Dufries has been in prison it's cost taxpayers about $150,000. He's 55 now and if he lives to 75, it will cost you another $300,000.


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