Tulsa City Commission Issues Action Plan to Address Female Incarceration

May 17, 2016

A City of Tulsa commission releases its action plan after a three-year study of female incarceration.

The Mayor’s Commission on the Status of Women came up with a road map nonviolent female offenders follow from before they commit a crime to after their release from prison. Commission member Betsy Jackson said services are hard to come by before women are arrested.

"We found that there were more programs when you got out versus before you went in and how you even got in, in the first place," Jackson said. "What we're trying to do is to keep women out of prison."

Jackson said starting early — very early — is a good start.

"I think if everyone could at least graduate from high school, I mean, that's part of the problem," Jackson said. "A lot of these females that are incarcerated did not graduate high school. You don't need to graduate from college, but if you can at least graduate from high school."

Tulsa County District Attorney Steve Kunzweiler said he’s learned many women in prison are victims of childhood physical or sexual abuse.

"The focus, really, ultimately, needs to be on our youngest population to make sure that we can steer them away from victimization and guide them toward the opportunities that you want for all children, which is just to live a safe and healthy life," Kunzweiler said.

The commission’s action plan calls on community partners to help institute programs as early as childhood to help kids finish high school and live healthy lives, lessening the chance of them committing crimes in the first place.

The action plan calls for more education and guidance for women being released from prison so they know what programs are available to them. The plan also calls for increased access to treatment and legal services, as well as partnerships with employers with second chance–friendly hiring practices.

After the commission presented its findings, Mayor Dewey Bartlett announced his fourth public safety summit this fall will focus on female incarceration.