Family & Children’s Services and George Kaiser Family Foundation held a graduation ceremony Tuesday, Jan. 15 at the Tulsa Country Court House for 15 participants who recently completed the Women in Recovery (WIR) program.
WIR is an alternative to incarceration for nonviolent female offenders in Tulsa County who have alcohol and drug addictions. This is the program’s eighth graduating class, bringing the total number of women who have completed the program to 95 since its founding in July 2010. WIR is funded by George Kaiser Family Foundation and operated by Family & Children’s Services in Tulsa.
“The transformations that these women have undergone as a result of the Women in Recovery program are incredible,” said the Honorable William Kellough, Presiding Tulsa County District Judge. “This program is an outstanding model for an alternative to incarceration, providing these women with the treatment, supervision and resources they need to reenter society and reconnect with their children. To build a just and stable community requires not only strict enforcement of the law but also a process to re-build our fellow citizens, mentally and morally. Our judicial system fails if it does not take this into account.”
Kellough provided the introduction at the ceremony, while Oklahoma State Rep. Pam Peterson was the featured speaker.
“These women are great examples of what can be accomplished when we reach out and work together to break the cycle of incarceration in our state,” Peterson said. “Being able to reconnect in a healthy way with their families and children, and also learning how to reenter the workforce are essential steps in once again becoming productive members of society. I’m so proud to hear their stories and to watch them graduate from this program.”
WIR includes one year of intensive treatment and services,allowing participants to successfully return to their families and communities. In order to qualify,the 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.
One important aspect of WIR is reunifying participants with their children and families. In total, WIR has helped 228 women and 508 children since 2009. There are now a total of 95 graduates. Today’s 15 graduates have a total of 29 children.
“Each year, I am so proud to see these women complete our program as completely different women than when they first came to us,” saidMimi Tarrasch,director of WIR at Family & Children’s Services. “Many of them came to us with no hope of recovery, with broken relationships and with doubts about their futures. Through this program, they have turned their futures around. Now, they are healthy, they are employed and contributing to their community.
In order 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.