Oklahoma throws away key when sentencing rapists

From the Rocky Mountain News, Sunday, May 30, 1993
By Charles Mahtesian
Governing Magazine

When Oklahomans say "lock 'em up and throw away the key," they're dead serious. Juries in Tulsa County have been sentencing some violent sex offenders to terms that won't end for thousands of years.

The millenia-long prison terms were handed down this March in two brutal rape cases, including an attack against an 11-year-old girl.

In that incident, the rapist was sentenced to 3,220 years behind bars: 800 years for each of three rape counts, 600 years for lewd molestation, 100 years for kidnapping and 60 years each on burglary and robbery counts.

He got off easy, however, compared with two men convicted 10 days earlier for repeatedly raping a 34-year-old woman. Each of them was sentenced to 6,475 years in prison.

Members of the juries told Sarah Day Smith, Tulsa County's assistant district attorney, that they imposed the sentence after calculating that the attackers would probably serve only one-tenth of their time. Indeed, the average time served on a six-year sentence in Oklahoma is less than one year. The jury "wanted to make sure those individuals were never released again," Smith says.

As a parole board policy, violent sex offenders are not released before serving at least one-third of their term.

But because there is no law requiring the board to stick with that policy, an effort is under way in the legislature to require that an offender serve a set percentage of his term. The "truth in sentencing" measure would insure that a criminal serve a minimum of 80% of the sentence.

Go Back to Shy David's Sexual Assault Page.