OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — An Oklahoma woman who has already served 15 years in prison for failing to report her boyfriend, who served just two years behind bars for abusing her children, on Tuesday moved a step closer to freedom.
Oklahoma’s Pardon and Parole Board voted unanimously to recommend 35-year-old Tondalao Hall ‘s 30-year prison sentence be commuted to time served. Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt will now consider the recommendation.
Hall’s ex-boyfriend, Robert Braxton Jr., pleaded guilty to abusing the children and was released on probation after a couple of years in jail.
The inequity of the case has outraged women’s rights groups and brought further attention to Oklahoma’s high rate of incarceration, particularly of women.
“This case is critically important because it is an example of the injustice done within the Oklahoma criminal justice system, specifically against women,” said Megan Lambert, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union of Oklahoma who is helping with Hall’s case. “And it’s a good example of why Oklahoma has a higher rate of female incarceration than anywhere else in the world, and that is because we impose harsh sentences upon women for the crimes of their male romantic partners.”
Hall appeared before the board via video from the Mabel Bassett Correctional Center in McLoud and expressed gratitude to them and her supporters, Lambert said.
Previous attempts at securing Hall’s early release have been unsuccessful , but the Pardon and Parole Board has new members appointed by Stitt, a businessman-turned-governor who has made reforming the state’s criminal justice system a priority for his administration. He also signed a bill earlier this year that retroactively changed some felony drug and property crimes to misdemeanors and accelerated the commutation process.
“Once the governor’s office receives the packet from the Pardon and Parole Board, the legal team will begin reviewing recommendations with the governor,” said Stitt spokeswoman Baylee Lakey.
Hall’s three children wrote letters to the Pardon and Parole Board to advocate for their mother’s release, and Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater recommended the commutation of her sentence.
“I wish Ms. Hall the best,” Prater said in a statement Tuesday. “She now has the opportunity to have a relationship with her children outside of prison.
“I’m hopeful that Ms. Hall will use this opportunity to educate women in abusive relationships to seek help before their children are abused by their violent partner.”
By SEAN MURPHY
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