Oklahoma has “mean” laws, provides little help to addicts and the mentally ill and is full of tough-on-crime politicians who are not concerned with rehabilitating criminals, says University of Oklahoma sociologist Susan Sharp. Oklahoma has held the distinction as the state that locks up women at the highest rate in the nation. Sharp said the state’s tough-on-crime sentencing guidelines are to blame for nearly all of the women serving lengthy terms in state prison, The Oklahoman reports.
Sharp said women usually end up in prison due to three factors: Coming from a poverty-stricken background, being in relationships with men who engage in criminal behavior and suffering from a long history of abuse. “We’ve ignored these families for generations,” Sharp said. She said too many women are being sentenced to lengthy prison terms for having quantities of drugs that would bring little to no punishment in other states. “It’s the way we define drug trafficking (in Oklahoma) … if you’re arrested with five grams of crack cocaine, you can be charged with trafficking. So they have this long sentence and they have to serve 85 percent before they start accruing earned credits.”