Legislation would keep non-violent parents out of prison

Legislative Staff Release

Published: 20-May-2010

Legislation creating a pilot program that establishes re-entry and diversion programs to allow non-violent offender parents to receive community-based services in lieu of incarceration unanimously passed the House today (Thursday, May 20).

House Bill 2998, by Rep. Kris Steele, would encourage re-entry and diversion programs as opposed to jail time for non-violent offenders who are the primary caregivers to minor children. The change would allow them to receive rehabilitative services while maintaining contact with their children.

Oklahoma incarcerates more women — who often serve as the lone caregiver in the home—than any other state in the nation. The 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 non-violent offenses.

“This is a pro-family bill that is smart on crime and will give parents a chance to receive community-based rehabilitative services that have proven effective while staying in contact with their children,” said Steele, a Shawnee Republican. “This legislation will help reduce the high number of incarcerated women in our state while also helping to keep families together.”

The bill passed the House with a vote of 90-0 and will now return to the Senate for final consideration.