Thursday, August 19, 2010

Women's Equality, Oklahoma Style

Here are some statistics and facts I picked up a meeting of the Norman Justice Alliance this evening. It's not that I found these things hard to believe; it's just hard for me to believe our legislature finds it necessary to be so mean and hard-hearted. But on second thought, that doesn't surprise me either.

  • Oklahoma has the highest female incarceration rate (per capita) in the world.
  • Oklahoma's female incarceration rate is almost double the national average.
  • Oklahoma does not have the highest crime rate: it ranks 17th in violent crime and 19th in property crime, so the high incarceration rate is not a direct result of the crime rate.
  • Many of the women prisoners in Oklahoma are incarcerated for short periods of time. Almost half the female inmate populate population is released each year and replaced by other women prisoners.
  • Almost half the women prisoners in Oklahoma were living with one or more of their minor children immediately prior to incarceration.
  • Around 4,500 children in Oklahoma have a mother in prison at any point in time.
  • Many of these children are in unstable living situations, having to move often or in households with the inadequate resources. (That's a surprise, eh?)
  • A high percentage of the women prisoners report that they were physically and/or sexually abused as children, so family placement may not always be safe for their children. (another surprise)
  • 80 percent of the women incarcerated in Oklahoma are there for nonviolent crime.
The idea for the NJA is to make people more aware of this, and we have a really good selling point: if you tell Oklahomans that their taxes are going to be lower if you reverse all of these figures, they will jump right on it. If there's anything these people understand here, it's low taxes are a positive good without any discussion whatsoever. And in fact, maintaining these draconian conditions for women in our prisons is tremendously expensive. Meanness does not come cheap.
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