Making A Difference was written by Reginald Hines, President of the National Association of Blacks in Criminal Justice (NABCJ) and retired criminal justice professional.
Alberta Fitzpatrick, a 71-year-old African American female has been incarcerated since 1981 a total of 37 years in the Mabel Bassett Correctional Center, a maximum-security prison for females in McLoud, Oklahoma. Alberta is serving time for robbery, she does not dispute the crime, but serving a total of 37 years for a crime in which she said she had only taken $1,500 dollars. Is this a good use of taxpayer’s money? At a cost of $30,000 dollars a year the state has spent over one million dollars to incarcerate her and counting. There will be no return for the state of Oklahoma on this investment.
At the age of 71, data indicates that the possibility of her committing another crime is very small. Why is she still incarcerated and taxpayers are paying the bill? The Oklahoma Chapter of National Association of Blacks in Criminal Justice (NABCJ) and Attorney Kenneth Watson have been working to get Alberta release out of prison. Reginald Hines, NABCJ President first met Alberta in 1981, when he was her case manager. He retired from the Department of Corrections in 2015.
Reginald was at Mabel Bassett for a prison ministry program in the fall of 2017 and noticed Alberta at the program. After talking with Alberta, he could not believe that she was still incarcerated. He presented Alberta’s story to the Oklahoma Chapter NABCJ and the Chapter decided they would work to get Alberta out of prison. The members of the organization did research on her cases and decided the best approach would be to ask the Pardon and Parole Board and the Governor of Oklahoma for a commutation of her sentences.
The Chapter approached Attorney Kenneth Watson with Alberta’s story and he agreed to complete the Commutation Packet and represent Alberta. The Commutation Packet was completed and submitted to the Pardon and Parole Board. The Board reviewed Alberta’s case during their November Docket 2018 and voted unanimously to commute her sentences with NABCJ President Reginald Hines and members Annette and Norman Barber speaking on her behalf.
The day before the Governor was to sign Alberta’s commutation and release her, officials from the Department of Corrections discovered a parole revocation case from 1974 that was not included in the Commutation Packet. Alberta was not released from prison. The Governor did sign her commutation for the other cases. Alberta is now currently serving a 5-year sentence from 1974. Another Commutation Packet has been submitted by Attorney Watson for the 5-year sentence.
Attorney Watson and NABCJ is hopeful that Alberta will be released in 2019. Are there other offenders in the system with similar circumstances? Who will help them?