As governor of Oklahoma, I’ve seen first-hand the profound impact incarceration has had on our families, children, communities and state.
Our first priority will always be keeping the public safe from dangerous people, but now we’re seeing our state prisons filled to 112 percent of their capacity, with nearly 27,000 people behind bars. Fully one-half of inmates are behind bars for drug-related and other nonviolent crimes.
I’ve been in our state prisons and visited those who are serving time. I’ve met people like Amanda Spicer, who started drinking alcohol at home at age 11. For the next 14 years, her addiction escalated to include narcotics, prescription drugs and eventually, methamphetamine.
Amanda served time in prison in her early 20s and when she returned to her family, she found they had lost their home. She turned to meth again as they lived out of hotels and trash bags. At age 25, Amanda discovered she was pregnant and knew she had to change. She begged her attorney to help her get into Women in Recovery, a program she had previously refused to consider. Amanda now has her GED, and is taking classes at Tulsa Community College with a goal of becoming a faith-based therapist for recovering addicts.
After hearing stories of offenders like Amanda, and seeing the lifelong struggles that often ripple out over generations, I knew my priority as governor would be to ensure we had more successful outcomes like Amanda’s.
Read the full op-ed here.