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Women In Recovery Program An Alternative To Oklahoma Prison

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Oklahoma puts more women in prison than any other state, a large number of them from drug and alcohol offenses. Oklahoma puts more women in prison than any other state, a large number of them from drug and alcohol offenses.
Kimberly Cummings got a second chance at life in the Women in Recovery program. Kimberly Cummings got a second chance at life in the Women in Recovery program.

By Tara Vreeland, The News On 6

TULSA, OK -- Oklahoma ranks number one for female incarceration. A large number of those women are in for drug and alcohol abuse problems. A summit later this month will discuss the alarming rate of women in prison and a new program which offers an alternative.

"My life: I was born into addiction. I was born into poverty. I was born into abuse," said Kimberly Cummings, a woman who was given a second chance at life through the Women in Recovery program.

Kimberly Cummings says her addiction started when she was just 14-years-old.

"I started out drinking alcohol and then eventually came to using anything and everything that I could get into my system," she said.

In April of 2009, Cummings was arrested for possession of meth.

"I was the first woman with an ‘endeavoring to manufacture meth charge' to not go to prison," she said.

Instead of a 10-year prison sentence, Cummings - a mother of three - is one of 25 in the Women in Recovery Program.

Oklahoma averages 131 women per 100,000 in prison. The national average is 69 per 100,000 - a startling difference.

"The cost is exorbitant, and the return on that cost is terrible as far as the damage that it does to the family, the damage that it does to the children," said Ken Levit of the George Kaiser Family Foundation.

"These are not hardened criminals," said Mimi Tarrasch, Director of Women in Recovery. "These are bright, articulate women who don't want to be detached from their children and their families."

Cummings credits the Women in Recovery program with giving her a second chance.

"In my life, I was struggling to numb pain that I didn't even know I could allow myself to feel," said Kimberly Cummings, a woman in the Women in Recovery program.

"That's probably one of the most powerful things they've done for me is, I can feel."

Cummings firmly says prison would not have helped her beat the addiction. As she triumphs one life step at a time - a job, a car, plans to pursue a college degree in counseling - she says it's the new relationship with her children that means the most.

"My 14-year-old this past weekend looked at me like he hasn't looked at me in a very long time. And that means the world to me. And I know with my success they will succeed. And we can grow as a family, and it's an amazing thing," she said.

The George Kaiser family foundation started the program which began in June. The summit will be on January 26th and leaders will discuss what can be done with the state legislature to reduce the number of women in prison for nonviolent crimes.

More About The Summit:

Women Incarcerated: A Complex Dialogues Summit
Tuesday, January 26, 2010
11:30 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.
Oklahoma Christian University Gaylord Center
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

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