Share “Women in Recovery program in Tulsa...”

Women in Recovery program in Tulsa succeeding with treatment instead of punishment

A Tulsa-based public-private partnership, Women in Recovery, is a pilot program for alternative treatment programs lawmakers are considering enacting elsewhere in Oklahoma in order to alleviate the state's prison crisis.
BY JOHN ESTUS Published: December 12, 2010

“There is no matrix,” said Amy Santee, a senior program officer at the George Kaiser Family Foundation who helped start the program.

The foundation is funding much of the program, but Santee is quick to point out that the program wouldn't work without the support of the community — particularly those in the criminal justice system.

Judges, prosecutors, public defenders and other court officials work closely with Women in Recovery, as do several other community groups.

Housing help offered

Mimi Tarrasch, director of special projects for Family and Children's Services in Tulsa, runs day-to-day operations for Women in Recovery.

Tarrasch said the program is set up to fit loosely into a calendar year.

“But if they're not ready, we don't move them along,” Tarrasch said.

Tarrasch uses the word “ready” a lot when talking about the women in the program.

When she and her team review potential program participants, they don't evaluate them on if they qualify.

They ask if they're ready.

“(The program) is intense,” Tarrasch said. “You have to want to be here.”

The program admits women convicted of nonviolent offenses before they are sentenced. The goal is to treat any addictions and prepare them to be productive members of society.

While in the program, the women are helped in getting a job and finding steady housing.

The program also provides little things — like nice clothes — to help them along the way.

Tarrasch said: “What woman doesn't want to look nice?”

Giving the women nice clothes and nutritional food is part of the program's work to boost their self-esteem.

Some women, who just a few months ago were jobless and in the drug world, now work for major Tulsa companies. Others work in services industries, where they hold management positions.

Among them is Smedley, who for the first time in more than a decade is out of the drug world. She's in management at a fast-food chain. She has her own home. She's cut old friends who were bad influences out of her life.

Like most in Women in Recovery, Smedley is a mother whose past incarcerations saw her leave a child behind while she was in prison.

Oklahoma children whose parents are incarcerated are five times more likely than their peers to wind up in prison themselves, according to the Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy.

Tarrasch said the women in the program today have 135 children among them.

By working closely with the mothers, Tarrasch and her staff feel they are in turn working with the children.

That much is clear to Smedley, who said the help she's received in the program has made her a better mother to her 17-year-old daughter.

“My daughter was headed down the same path. She was using drugs. She was failing school, well on her way to prison just like I was,” Smedley said.


  1. 1
    Oklahoma high school teacher, husband arrested for child abuse
  2. 2
    87-year-old man accused of soliciting a prostitute earns pass from prosecutor
  3. 3
    Bear Cubs Caught on Camera Playing
  4. 4
    Janis Joplin's Bandmate Talks Heroin, Pool Hangs in Exclusive Doc Clip
  5. 5
    Pope to say D.C. Mass in Spanish in bow to 'Hispanic population'
+ show more


× Trending politics Article