Incarceration

Oklahoma Program Tries to Divert Women From Prison

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Oklahoma's rate of female incarceration has led the country for many years. A 2009 program to detour women to drug treatment may help change that.

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Addiction Common, Treatment Needed

For many of the women in Oklahoma's legal system, addiction plays a role. Of the 1,393 female offenders the Department of Corrections received during fiscal year 2010, 64 percent were assessed with a moderate to high need for substance abuse treatment.

Candice Weaver has spent a combined total of about five years in Oklahoma state prisons for possession of a controlled substance and other charges related to her addiction to drugs--everything from alcohol and marijuana to PCP, cocaine and heroin. Growing up in a household where her mother drank and both parents partied, Weaver, 28, said she learned that drug use wasn't necessarily bad.

"I was taught that if you were a functioning addict, you weren't as bad as a hardcore addict who couldn't function and hold a job," said Weaver, who has an 11-year-old son.

When she was brought up on charges most recently, however, she didn't go to prison. She moved to a halfway house and started treatment at Women in Recovery. Weaver is hoping she won't wind up in prison again.

Geana Hill, 27, recently graduated from the program after 15 months of treatment. She now has a job, a place to live and sees her 9-year-old daughter regularly.

Hill was 13 when she first tried methamphetamine after her mother gave it to her. She soon became addicted. At 15, Hill met her now-ex husband. She got pregnant at 16 and dropped out of high school at 17. Eventually she left her husband and child to be with her dealer. She was soon arrested for endeavoring to manufacture methamphetamine.

Hill was facing 10 years in prison before Women in Recovery stepped in.

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Kristi Eaton is a freelance writer currently based in Oklahoma. Visit her Web site at kristieaton.com or follow her on twitter at twitter.com/kristieaton.

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