TEEM: Providing a network of invaluable support

BY KRIS STEELE Published: December 22, 2012

The majority of women incarcerated in Oklahoma are nonviolent offenders who will be released into society. In fact, the average prison stay for nonviolent women is less than a year. But without proper support, accountability and opportunities upon release, many offenders repeat previous mistakes and continue on a merry-go-round in and out of prison, with longer stays behind bars upon each conviction.

Community organizations such as TEEM provide a positive network of support that pave the way for successful reentry, prevent reoffending and empower a person to be a productive citizen. Through effective collaboration with the faith community and other valuable community partners, the pieces of the puzzle can be put in place to end the perpetuating cycle connected to unsustainable incarceration rates. It's an approach that's just as tough and twice as smart on crime.

Education, prevention, intervention, treatment and support services provide cost-efficient opportunities that can lead to productive, successful results. Effective community based programs are a practical way to promote public safety, exercise fiscal responsibility and improve the future for generations to come.

Steele, the past speaker of the Oklahoma House of Representatives, is executive director of TEEM.