The Atlantic recently sponsored the first national meeting on the criminal justice system. It’s a forum called Defining Justice, and it deals with the over-incarceration of nonviolent women.
The forum, which occurred Oklahoma City, was the first among the three forums to be hosted. The arrangement was necessitated in collaboration with:
- Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting
- An Oklahoma journalism startup called The Frontier
- Oklahoma Watch
The groups’ aim was to discuss:
- Over-incarceration of the women, mainly due to nonviolent drug offenses
- The effects, it does to families
- Solutions for this issue
Alarming History of Over-Incarceration of Nonviolent Women in Oklahoma
For decades now drug possession has been landing many women in prison, according to Oklahoma prison data
Since 1991, Oklahoma has:
- Had the highest rates of female incarceration in America
- Become the second state with the highest rate of male incarceration rate
And although the state has now begun, addressing the matter, over-incarceration still prevails. Oklahoma imprisons African-American women at about 2-times more than another adult.
Oklahoma’s prison population is 78% higher than the average national inmate population. Still, it’s expected to grow by 25% over the next decade.
Today, at least 7-women are serving life to prison sentences for drug offenses.
Here is the critical statistics that proves weaknesses in State’s justice department:
- Two-Thirds of the female inmates suffered domestic violence as adults
- About two-thirds were sexually or physically harassed as a child
- More than a third were raped as adults
- Nearly 60% have mental illness—about twice the percentage of the male inmates
Despite having these critical challenges, female drug offenders are often treated by the prosecutors as if they killed someone.
Professor Emeritus Sharp believes that some Oklahomans have a wrong notion.
They think that women who abuse drugs, (particularly those children) violates all the norms to the extreme. So they would rather see these kids raised in foster care than with mothers who abuse drugs.
The Atlantic’s forum began with Alison Stewart, interviewing Patricia Spottedcrow. The interview revealed that Spottedcrow had been sentenced to 12-years in prison. She had taken a “blind plea,” for marijuana worth $31.
She is a prime example of the over-incarceration of nonviolent women, as her offense was not a violent offense.
Efforts That Have Been Adopted To Curb Over-Incarceration of Nonviolent Women
Stewart interviewed Gov. Mary Fallin as well. Gov Fallin has recently pushed for justice reform by urging lawmakers to pass new prison reform laws.
Through her efforts, State Legislatures passed a law which makes possession of drugs strictly for personal use, a misdemeanor, rather than a felony. So, there would be no prison time involved.
- It’s not clear whether the house will respect people’s will
- Most of the recommendations issued by a task force formed by Gov. Fallin weren’t passed into law
The state listed more than 30 criminal offenses, including 6-drug crimes, requiring the convicts to serve 85% of their sentences.
The groups working towards reforms include:
- Bipartisan citizen’s coalition
- Political leaders
- Economic leaders
But despite their efforts, the duration of sentences for female distributing or possessing drugs has continued, increasing. Over the last decade, the rate has risen by 29%.
Tulsa County’s judges are the only ones who have reduced the sentences by 25%. Only less than a third of Oklahoma female inmate released received drug and or alcohol treatments that they needed.
The state has continuously, failed to tackle its structural budgetary challenges, thus killing the hopes of many.
If Oklahoma really wants to address the cruel issue of women over-incarceration they shouldn’t continue to starve:
- Public education
- Higher education
- Mental health services
- Public health services
How do you feel about the over-incarceration of nonviolent women?
Do you believe they should be sent to prisons to do years for such crimes?
Tell us what you think in the comments below.