Family & Children’s Services and George Kaiser Family Foundation held a graduation ceremon April 18 at the Oklahoma State Capitol for 18 participants who recently completed the Women in Recovery (WIR) program. WIR is an alternative to incarceration program for nonviolent female offenders inTulsa Countywho have alcohol and drug addictions. The program is funded by George Kaiser Family Foundation and operated by Family & Children’s Services.
“Oklahoma still ranks first in the nation with the rate of incarcerated nonviolent female offenders,” said Governor Mary Fallin. “With programs like Women in Recovery, we are starting to buck that trend, save lives and families in the process. This being the largest graduating class in the program’s history shows that these women are dedicated to a life that is substance free and ready to contribute to society. My sincere thanks goes out to the sponsors, volunteers and everyone involved in getting these women rehabilitated.”
Women in Recovery works to reunify participants with their children and families. In total, WIR has helped 139 women, positively impacting 325 children. Today’s graduates have a total of 50 children. Including this graduating class,WIR has graduated 70 women,who have a total of 148 children.
“This program has changed my life,” said Christy Satterwhite,graduate of the program. “My children and I are able to spend quality time together today and I am finally the mother my children have always needed me to be.”
WIR includes one year of intensive treatment and services, allowing participants to successfully return to their families and communities. In order to qualify, women must be 18 years of age or older, involved in the criminal justice system and of imminent risk of incarceration, ineligible for other diversion services or courts and must have a history of substance abuse. Women with children have a high priority for program admission.
Governor Mary Fallin gave opening remarks at the celebration followed by a keynote address by House Speaker Kris Steele.
“We commend these women for rising back up and fulfilling the rigorous requirements of graduation,” said Speaker Steele. “They are inspirational individuals who are positive proof that there can be a better, more effective way within the criminal justice system.”
Oklahoma district attorneys, judges, public defenders, business leaders, community partners and supporters also attended the celebration.
“Today’s graduates have overcome their addictions, reconnected with their families and become productive members of our community,” saidMimi Tarrasch, director of WIR at Family & Children’s Services. “I could not be more proud to know this program is not only changing the lives of these graduates but that it’s impacting so many children and families.”
Amy Santee,senior program officer of George Kaiser Family Foundation addressed the women at the program,congratulating them on their achievement.
“George Kaiser Family Foundation is dedicated to breaking the cycle of intergenerational incarceration in Oklahoma,” said Santee. “This program’s success shows there are alternatives to incarceration that hold offenders accountable, improve public safety and transform the lives of families.”
To graduate, all participants must be drug/alcohol-free, crime-free, employed, actively participating in community recovery support, engaged in reunification plans with their children and meeting all legal and court requirements. WIR includes an aftercare program and three-year follow up evaluation provided by the University of Tulsa.