Oklahoma incarcerates more women per capita than any other state, doubling the national average. Nearly 80% of incarcerated women in Oklahoma are nonviolent offenders. Of these, 60% suffered sexual and physical abuse as children. Over 90% were victims of domestic violence as adults. Almost all of these women suffer from untreated post-traumatic stress disorder because of this abuse. Oklahoma has few alternatives to incarceration for nonviolent offenders. The state budget allows little for rehabilitative, drug counseling, health services, and education programs directed toward at-risk women and prior offenders. Women incarcerated in Oklahoma share some common paths toward prison.
Felony convictions have a lasting impact on women’s lives as well as their families. Incarceration makes is difficult to find employment, obtain housing, and numerous other services required by women and families. Children of incarcerated mothers are 5 times more likely to be incarcerated themselves. By keeping families together in Oklahoma and finding alternatives to incarcerating nonviolent women, we can reduce Oklahoma’s overall prison population.