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Oklahoma Women Incarcerated

Oklahoma continues to be ranked as the state with the HIGHEST female incarceration rates in the U.S.  The Oklahoma Commission on the Status of Women has voted to make this topic their primary issue area for the FY'10 year.  This issue of female incarceration rates in Oklahoma will be the topic for the 2010 Oklahoma Women's Summit.  To view the Public Agenda Action Plan, click here. Please check this site again in the following months for more information on the summit and the work of this committee.  

10 Talking Points
  • There was about a 14 percent growth rate in arrests for females between 1996 and 1998, while this was almost 11 percent for males.
  • Both males and females experienced growth rates in new DOC admissions, at 14 and 26 percent, respectively.
  • There is an increase between the percentage of females with felony arrests and the percentage of female felony convictions, while the opposite occurs among males.
  • The largest difference between female felony arrest rates and female felony convictions were among African Americans in which there is an increase between the percentage with felony arrests and the percentage of felony convictions while the opposite pattern was found for Caucasians.
  • Drug offenses are the most prevalent offense for incarcerated men and women, accounting for 32 and 45 percent, respectively.
  • Among drug offenses, possession was the highest specific offense.
  • For women, fraud and larceny offenses follow drug offenses, while for men larceny and DUI offenses follow drug offenses.
  • There is a consistent finding of increases between the percentage of females being arrested for drug offenses and the percentage convicted for drug offenses, while the opposite is true for males.
  • Since 1993 Oklahoma's rate for incarcerating women has been among the highest among the nation.  Oklahoma's rate for 1998 was the third highest  at 622 per 100,000, while the nation's rate was 461 per 100,000 (that is nearly 2 1/2 times that of the national rate.  This is an increase from 1991 when Oklahoma's female incarceration rate was 39.15 per 100,000, which was 2 times that of the national rate of 18.91.
  • A study of drug offenders in Oklahoma found that black women were more likely than white women to receive sentences of five or more years, regardless of the offense or prior legal history.  On the other hand, white women were more likely to receive deferred sentences.

There is a need for further research and examinations into how and why there are gender differences among offenders in Oklahoma.  In addition, children of many of these women in our prisons, are put into state custody.  The length of time to notify next-of-kin needs to be longer and more aggressive attempts made to place these children with family members.  The cost for non-violent offenders needs to be examined as well.  Research and review sentencing models, male vs. female as well as grandparents raising children involved.


Oklahoma Criminal Justice Resource Center, Oklahoma City

"Mothers in Prison"; Susan F. Sharp, Ph.D., University of Oklahoma





Last Modified on 10/04/2010