Escaping Oklahoma’s Female Prison Epidemic: NBC Left Field

Escaping Oklahoma’s Female Prison Epidemic: NBC Left Field


My dad got me hooked on methamphetamines
by giving me an IV shot. We was at one of his friend’s house and
I walked in on him getting high, told him I wanted to try it,
and that’s how it started. I got pregnant when I was 19,
20, I had my daughter in prison. The last few days before I was released
from prison I had a lot of anxiety and dealing with the guilt and not relapsing.>>This is Aliea. She’s well acquainted with
Oklahoma’s criminal justice system. During her most recent interaction,
she spent one year in prison.>>Walking out of prison,
it was amazing, I felt free, you know? Being able to walk out those gates and
not have to look back. My case managers were there to pick me up. But you wanna walk out and your family
be there, especially your children, but it wasn’t happening like that.>>Branch 15 is a transitional living
house, this is where I will be living for the next year.>>This is going to be your room.>>I’m really nervous about everything, about the other people,
about messing up or not. I’m just nervous about everything.>>Since childhood, Aliea’s been
entangled in a cycle of drug addiction, unstable family life, and incarceration. And now, she wants nothing
more than to break that cycle.>>When I first started getting in
trouble with the law was when I was 12, that’s when I started my addiction. My mother had left me,
my father was in and out of my life. My dad started me on drugs. I remember that day like it was yesterday,
I was 12 years old, you know? I was stripped from my childhood. It was one thing, one thing after
another just to get that drug.>>This ought to be
right here an easy job.>>My dad got sent to prison because
of drugs, he was cooking meth. I thought he was cool cuz he
went to prison, he was bad.>>And I know you have a lot of guilt too. I have a lot of guilt, but
I don’t judge you for it. I don’t hold it against you at all.>>My life, it went downhill. I was in and out of lockup. And then when I turned 17,
I was put in Oklahoma County Jail. I stayed there for a year,
and started all over again, started my addiction all over again.>>Pregnant by age 20,
Aliea was high when she found out, and once again she was in trouble for drugs. The cycle starts again, but
this time she ended up in prison, terrified about what might
happen to her unborn child.>>It was embarrassing,
it was real embarrassing. Here I am, young, pregnant with my
first child, I’m a drug addict. They race me to the hospital. I was there going
through labor for 18 hours. I was shackled to the bed, and
we were pushing her out, and I just started crying, like I was bawling. I don’t know it was tears of joy or tears of fixing to have my
daughter stripped from me. They put her in my arms in the bed for
a couple hours, and then they took her. I was in prison for two years.>>During that time, Aliea’s
grandmother took care of her child. But when she was finally released.>>I tried to bond with her, but
every time I would pick her up, she would scream and cry, and
want my grandmother, so I felt rejected. It was hard, it was real hard.>>Unable to be the mother she never had,
Aliea went back to what she knew, drugs. When her grandmother eventually died, she found herself ill prepared
to raise her own daughter.>>My daughter told me she hated me and
I just let go.>>The fact is Aliea’s story
isn’t unique in Oklahoma. The state has the highest rate of
female incarceration in the country and there’s no signs of it
slowing down any time soon. In 2015, 64 out of every 100,000
women in the US were in prison. Oklahoma more than doubled that
with 151 women for every 100,000. Experts point to the state’s harsh
drug laws and longer prison terms, which are some of the most
aggressive in the country. Oklahoma uses prison over alternatives
more often than other states, with female incarceration projected to
grow by 60% over the next ten years. Similar to Aliea, 61% of female offenders
that entered prison in 2013 were assessed with the need for
substance abuse treatment. The cycle starts yet again.>>In 2012, I was arrested,
my daughter was put in foster care.>>For years, she tried to get her
daughter back, but was denied. A year ago, she caught her latest
charge and ended up behind bars. Aliea has since found out
that her daughter doesn’t want a relationship with her. I worry about my daughter following
in my footsteps a lot because I followed my dad’s footsteps. September 12th, she’ll be 12, and
that’s when my life went out of control. I want to do whatever
I can to prevent that. If I could break the cycle with her,
it would be amazing. I get scared because I couldn’t
imagine my daughter being in prison. This time is different because I
know what I need to do to break that cycle with my daughter. I wanna be a family.

7 thoughts on “Escaping Oklahoma’s Female Prison Epidemic: NBC Left Field”

  1. I find it interesting that this story didn't comment on the comparison between male and female incarceration rates in US states. According to the US Dept. of Justice statistics the overall incarceration rate in Oklahoma is 1300 per 100,000 adults. That's well above the country's overall average. This story indicates the female incarceration rate is 151 per 100,000, though it is unclear if that is per 100,000 women, or 100,000 adults. However, no matter how the numbers are compared, it is apparent the male incarceration rate is overwhelmingly higher than that of females. Nor sure how the male incarceration rate does not qualify as an "epidemic" deserving of attention. I would guess that men being in jail is less likely to secure views or sympathy. But I am willing to bet that solving incarceration rates for both genders is likely to be a better overall outcome than just focusing on one.

  2. Wow. Being a woman from Oklahoma I found this very interesting. I moved to Florida when I was 16 and that may have saved me. My first time using drugs was when I was 12 also. My cousin (female) has been in and out of jail and prison for many many years and she has 2 children. She's currently in prison serving her longest term yet. I know sooo many males and females who are doing the same thing. It's sad. I love the state of Oklahoma? Much more than Florida. But I'm glad I got away.

  3. I live in the ozarks in Oklahoma, meth everywhere and all ages. Folks look like shit with bad teeth, obese and a don't give a crap attitude. The young seem retarded on a whole with no future. Prison helps a lot to dry folks out and give them a break from tweeter like.

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