New Oklahoma Program Intended to Reduce Female Incarceration Rate

For years, Oklahoma has had one of the highest overall incarceration rates in the nation; when it comes to locking up women, Oklahoma continues to take the lead year after year. A major reason for this is the state's harsh drug laws which dole out long prison terms for even relatively minor drug crimes. 

Oklahomans have begun asking themselves if "tough on crime" legislation is really the best solution to the war on drugs, and when looking at the state's rates of substance abuse and incarceration, and the resulting impact on families and the foster care system, the answer seems to be a resounding, "No." Instead of incarcerating these women--often mothers--the state might find itself better served by offering treatment programs, rather than punishment, to people accused of minor drug offenses or non-violent crimes like theft that stem from drug addiction.

Oklahoma does have some programs to help--a few drug courts and the Women in Recovery program, for example. However, these alternatives to jail and prison are not always available to those who need them. In an effort to take things further and helps with efforts in recovery and rehabilitation, Oklahoma has now unveiled a new program called "Pay for Success." Pay for Success is a public-private partnership intended to reduce the state's female incarceration rate.

Pay for Success has been used in other countries and around the nation to reduce recidivism, but Oklahoma's program is the first to specifically target female incarceration.

Through this program, the state and private entities, including The George Kaiser Family Foundation, will provide reimbursement to the Women in Recovery program for every successful graduate who does not re-offend. According to The Oklahoman, up to $22,584 in reimbursement for each successful graduate will be distributed as follows:

"Payments would be made in four equal installments of $5,646, with the first installment due when a woman graduates from the program and other installments due 24 months, 36 months and 54 months after the start date if the woman is not re-incarcerated."

Although that sounds like an expensive project, officials say the program will be a money-saver for taxpayers. They note that the average cost of incarceration is more than $30,000.