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Tulsa Nonprofit Strives To Give Women Released From Jail A Purpose

Oct 26, 2014 | by Lynn Powell

Oklahoma is NUMBER ONE IN THE WORLD IN LOCKING UP WOMEN. Oklahoma sends more women to prison than any other state per capita, and in that grim statistic, Tulsa County leads the way.

TULSA, Oklahoma – Oklahoma sends more women to prison than any other state per capita, and in that grim statistic, Tulsa County leads the way.


The Mayor’s Commission on the Status of Women met with Mayor Dewey Bartlett Wednesday morning to talk about the problem and what’s being done to get women out of jail and into the workforce.


Of the women in Oklahoma’s jails, 67 percent are in for non-violent crimes. Lawmakers and non-profit organizations are working help change that statistic.


Not many people frame their mug shot and put in their office, but that’s exactly what recovered meth addict Kim Cummings did.


“Well it’s a good reminder. I love that people can see where I was and the situation then and look at me now and what I have become,” Cummings said.


She’s become the co-executive director of Just the Beginning, a non-profit group with a mission to give women who come out of prison a purpose.


She helps women like Shanna Williams, who was arrested for drug charges and released from jail in March.


“I was fortunate enough to have someone reach out to me while I was in jail and say ‘hey I am here. Let me show you your potential,'” Williams said.


Oklahoma incarcerates 127 women for every 100,000 females, that’s nearly double the national average.


Jenice Jones who founded Just the Beginning helped both Kim and Shanna turn their lives around. She said the problem with Oklahoma’s prison begins with policymakers.


“We are not directing our money in the right place,” she said.


The Commission on the Status of Women presented a three-tier plan to the mayor to try to change that. It included giving female inmates access to education, healthcare and job coaching.


“They get out and bam they have to go out and get a job and nobody is giving them an opportunity,” Jones said.


To get them ready, the group said the state should shift focus from the jail cell to the classroom, where women can be rehabilitated.


“You treated me like an animal, it was an inhumane process. No, that is not a solution, but you give me the opportunity to speak to someone for six months into their lives, not locked up, and I guarantee they will be sitting here just like I am,” Cummings said.


She said both her mug and family pictures are snapshots of what can happen.


The family portrait gives women like Shanna hope that their story too can have a happy ending.


The commission is hosting roundtable discussions with business leaders and will report back to the mayor on what they have learned in January.


This report comes out annually.

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