The Oklahoma City metro area will soon have an alternative sentencing option modeled after Tulsa's Women in Recovery program.
The Tulsa program was created in response to Oklahoma's nation-leading female incarceration rate. It offers nonviolent female offenders a way to reform themselves outside of prison.
Oklahoma City's program is the result of state legislation authored this past Legislative session by House Speaker-elect Kris Steele, R-Shawnee.
The bill, House Bill 2998, authorized the Department of Corrections to create programs designed to reduce the number of nonviolent offenders who are sent to prison.
Like in Tulsa, private and state funds are being used to develop Oklahoma City's alternative sentencing program for women.
The program would be for nonviolent offenders â€” particularly mothers who would leave children behind if they were incarcerated.
â€œWe hope to develop an alternative that allows them to join a different life trajectory â€” one that doesn't involve prison sentences and becoming a burden to society,â€ said Bob Ross, president of Oklahoma City-based Inasmuch Foundation.
The foundation is working with the Department of Corrections, Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services, United Way of Central Oklahoma, Sunbeam Family Services and more than a dozen other agencies and community groups to develop an Oklahoma City-area program similar to Women in Recovery.
Tulsa program to help
The Tulsa-based George Kaiser Family Foundation, which started Women in Recovery in Tulsa, is also helping develop the Oklahoma City area program.