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Alternative to Prison for Nonviolent Women in Oklahoma

In Oklahoma, more women are incarcerated per capita, and more condemned prisoners are executed, than in any other state in the United States. This trend could change, however, with a program that is designed to provide an alternative to locking up nonviolent women convicted of crimes in Oklahoma. The program subjects these women to an …

In Oklahoma, more women are incarcerated per capita, and more condemned prisoners are executed, than in any other state in the United States. This trend could change, however, with a program that is designed to provide an alternative to locking up nonviolent women convicted of crimes in Oklahoma. The program subjects these women to an intense rehabilitation program for one year or more in hopes of helping them turn their lives around. In return, the criminal charges filed against them that would have otherwise sent them to the penitentiary are dropped. If you have been charged with a criminal offense in Oklahoma, contact our criminal defense attorneys at Oklahoma Legal Center today to discuss your legal options.

Program Could Help Stop Cycle of Incarceration

Those in support of this program, including Oklahoma’s state prison director, Justin Jones, believe that focusing on rehabilitating young mothers instead of sending them to prison is a sensible solution to the issue of prison overcrowding. The prison system in Oklahoma has been at 100% capacity for decades, and the numbers are expected to continue growing. “If you really want to stop the growth of imprisonment in the nation and in particular, Oklahoma, you’ve got to look at the next generation,” said Jones. Approximately 70% of the next generation of inmates will be the children of men and women currently in prison, and “programs like this are really critical in stopping that cycle of incarceration,” he said.

Female Prison Incarceration in Oklahoma

According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, the female incarceration rate in Oklahoma is currently 121 per 100,000 population, compared to the national average of 65. This extraordinarily high rate is due at least in part to poverty, strict mandatory minimum sentences for repeat offenders and the state’s historically weak response to drug addiction and child abuse, says Amy Santee, a senior program officer for the George Kaiser Family Foundation, based in Tulsa. The foundation is providing funds for an alternative prison program in Tulsa County called Women in Recovery, which started in 2009 and spawned a similar program in Oklahoma County, called ReMerge. The programs focus on young mothers and include individual and group therapy, job training, transportation and housing.

Our Criminal Defense Attorneys Can Help

Many women avoiding prison terms in Oklahoma thanks to these programs have been physically or sexually abused as children, are addicted to drugs or alcohol, and are victims of domestic violence, program officials have stated. In many cases, says Terri Woodland, ReMerge’s program director, the women are estranged from their families, have lost custody of their children and find themselves without a critical support system. If you are facing charges for a criminal offense in Oklahoma City, or elsewhere in Oklahoma, consult our criminal defense lawyers at Oklahoma Legal Center for legal help. With our experienced attorneys on your side, you can discuss your legal options, which may include participation in an alternative prison program.

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