Oklahoma women get new start in recovery program

The Women in Recovery program graduated its largest class — 18 — during a ceremony Wednesday at the Oklahoma state Capitol.
BY MICHAEL MCNUTT mmcnutt@opubco.com Published: April 19, 2012

An honors high school graduate, Brooke Larson never thought that within a decade she would be a drug addict facing a 10-year prison sentence. An addict in prison, Larson never expected she would someday be sitting next to Oklahoma's governor and shaking her hand at the state Capitol.

Larson, 32, was among 18 women who recently completed the Women in Recovery program, an alternative to incarceration for nonviolent women in Tulsa County who have alcohol and drug addictions. It is the program's sixth graduating class.

Fallin told the graduates and more than 100 attending Wednesday's ceremony that Oklahoma ranks first in the nation with the rate of incarcerated nonviolent female offenders.

“With programs like Women in Recovery, we are starting to buck that trend, save lives and families in the process,” Fallin said. “This being the largest graduating class in the program's history shows that these women are dedicated to a life that is substance-free and ready to contribute to society.”

Fallin said her mother often consoled her when she faced personal struggles and challenges by telling her that she wasn't the first to face such problems.

“You're not the first, ladies,” she said. “You're not the first Oklahomans that have had to struggle with some type of challenge in your life.

“God allows U-turns,” she said. “You've made that U-turn in life and today is a celebration of your new life, of your recovery, of your commitment to have a different life, to give your children a better future in our state.”

House Speaker Kris Steele has proposed sweeping changes to state corrections policy the past two years. The changes are intended to alleviate prison overcrowding, in part by sending nonviolent drug offenders to alternative sentencing programs such as Women in Recovery. Steele told the graduates they could learn from automobile designers.

“When they designed the car for us to drive, you know that they make the windshield great big and the rearview mirror is relatively small in comparison,” said Steele, R-Shawnee. “They understand that what's in front of you is much more important than what's behind you. ... You've got the rest of your life ahead of you and tremendous opportunities in front of you.”

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