Kaye Beach

Legislation Aimed at Keeping Non-violent Moms out of Prison, with Family Passes House Committee

In Kris Steele, Oklahoma Legislators on February 27, 2010 at 11:24 am

OKLAHOMA CITY (Feb. 15, 2010) — Legislation that would help keep nonviolent offender mothers out of prison and with their families unanimously passed House committee today.

House Bill 2998, by Rep. Kris Steele, would encourage re-entry and diversion programs as opposed to jail time for mothers in order to allow them to receive rehabilitative services while maintaining contact with their children.

Oklahoma incarcerates more women than any other state in the nation. Its incarceration rate for women is 131 per 100,000 residents, almost twice the national average of 69 per 100,000.

Most women prison inmates, 68 percent, are in prison for nonviolent offenders, including drug offenses and related crimes.

“This is a pro-family issue,” said Steele, R-Shawnee. “Taking these women out of their homes for nonviolent crimes is disruptive to the family unit, and often leads to an inter-generational pattern of crime that could be stopped or deterred with appropriate in-home rehabilitative services at the outset. These services will also save the state money over the long-term in comparison to the tangible and intangible costs of incarceration.”

For years, lawmakers and Corrections officials have worked to reduce the number of women incarcerated in Oklahoma. This legislation would work to keep families whole while offering these women diversionary services to prevent reoccurring criminal activity.

“This legislation would not change anything for violent offenders who need to be in prison,” said House Speaker Chris Benge, R-Tulsa. “But for mothers who commit non-violent crimes, the more we can make their sentences comparable to those in other states, the better it will be for our state and their families.”

The bill passed the House Appropriations Judiciary and Public Safety Subcommittee unanimously and will next be considered by the full budget committee.

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