Steele named top legislator by Women’s Coalition
Legislative Staff Release
The Oklahoma Women’s Coalition will honor Oklahoma’s House speaker-designate this month for his leadership and efforts to reduce the high rate of female incarceration in the state.
State Rep. Kris Steele, R-Shawnee, has been named the 2010 Legislator of the Year by the coalition and will be honored at the group’s June 24 annual meeting.
“I am humbled by this special recognition,” Steele said. “As policymakers, we have the responsibility to work toward creating a better future for all Oklahomans. The Oklahoma Women’s Coalition does a great job of advocating for the improved status of women and children in our state, and it is an honor to join with them in their cause.”
Steele authored House Bill 2998, legislation recently signed into law that authorizes reentry and diversion pilot programs for non-violent offender parents to receive community-based services in lieu of incarceration. Its intent is to encourage the state to allow primary caregivers of minor children to receive rehabilitative services while maintaining contact with their children, Steele said.
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 prison inmates, 68 percent, are in prison for non-violent offenses.
“Oklahoma ranks first in the nation for the number of women incarcerated per capita,” said Jean Warner, Ph.D., chair of the Oklahoma Women’s Coalition. “The coalition made this issue a priority this year. We partnered with other organizations, like the Oklahoma Department of Corrections, to examine this issue and look for solutions. Representative Steele has been a leader in moving this issue forward.”
Diversion programs could save the state approximately $56 per day, or $20,000 per inmate, according to the coalition.
“By implementing effective diversion and reentry programs, we’ll help stop the cycle of intergenerational incarceration and strengthen Oklahoma families,” Warner said.