Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin took center stage yesterday at a conference on female incarceration, speaking about the state’s dismal prison rate and her efforts to keep mothers from going behind bars, The Oklahoman reports. Fallin gave the keynote address at a forum called “Women Unshackled,” sponsored by the Justice Action Network in Washington, D.C. (Oklahoma has been called the nation’s capital of female incarceration.) Fallin told the crowd of advocates, lawmakers and former inmates that “there’s a large, growing body of research that shows that prison isn’t the answer and the best option for everyone.” She added, “For many of our nonviolent, low-level offenders, there are alternatives that work better.”
More than four out of every five women sent to prison in Oklahoma are sent for nonviolent offenses and 42 percent are there for drug-related convictions. Oklahoma has partnered with a “Women in Recovery” group through the Pay for Success plan, in which the state pays for every woman who successfully completes the program and stays out of state corrections department custody. The nonprofit is eligible to receive up to four payments of $5,646 per client if they stay out of trouble for 4.5 years after starting the program. “We know in the state of Oklahoma, it costs around $30,000 a year to incarcerate a woman, but when you put them through (a program), it is a lot less because they come out in a shorter period of time and it’s less expensive,” Fallin said.