A local women's group is hosting a free, educational forum Wednesday to try to find ways to erase Oklahoma's distinction as the state with highest rate of incarcerated females.
The forum will be held at 11:30 a.m. at the United Way of Central Oklahoma, 1444 NW 28.
According to the state Corrections Department's latest annual report, Oklahoma locks up 128 out of every 100,000 women, nearly twice the national average.
At the end of the last fiscal year, there were roughly 2,600 women incarcerated in Oklahoma prisons, a figure that has remained relatively flat since 2005, Corrections Department records show.
Jane Nelson, chair of the Oklahoma Women's Coalition, said the Sooner State is “routinely ranked as one of the worst states for women to live,” and that her organization is seeking to change that through education and advocacy.
Nelson said an untold number of women are languishing in state prisons when they could be rehabilitated in other ways.
“We hope to see legislation enacted in the next legislative session that will find alternatives to prison for women convicted of nonviolent offenses,” Nelson said. “Too many women are going to prison, destroying their families, because of addictions.”
Featured speakers at the forum, which is the second one held this year, will include Dr. Susan Sharp, a professor at the University of Oklahoma.
Yousef Khanfar, an award-winning author and photographer, will speak as well. Khanfar has photographed and interviewed “hundreds of female inmates in Oklahoma,” according to a news release from Oklahoma Women's Coalition.
Women who've been through the prison system and then been released back into society will take part in a panel discussion during the forum.
The women also will talk about their experiences with prison diversion programs, which have been used successfully in some Oklahoma counties.
At a glance
For more information, call Oklahoma Women's coalition at 286-0356.