I am a solutions oriented kind of guy. If I sit through a meeting, I want to walk out with some action steps. I admit, I like to talk, and to be painfully transparent, I like even more to be heard. But honestly, I could care less about all the talking if nothing gets done afterwards. What a waste of time!
We live in a world that is pockmarked and shredded with problems; untold suffering. None of us are immune to it and all of us are responsible for it (except those of us too young to yet know better). Bringing it closer to home, one of the problems right under our noses here in Oklahoma is the number of women we incarcerate, primarily for drug/alcohol related charges. There are reasons why this is the case and that discussion has merit. That is not the subject of this blog today. I want to lay out some observations about this problem that I believe emphasize the seriousness of it and the unprecedented opportunity for good that will result when disciples of Jesus step up to the plate and face this problem head on with the redemptive power of the gospel.
A Very Big Problem
Oklahoma incarcerates more women than any other state in the union. We have had this dark honor for several years. According to Oklahoma Watch, a non-profit media organization, in 2014 Oklahoma locked up 143 women per 100,000 which is over twice the national average! They go on to report that “calculations indicate the rate likely increased in 2015, with total women in corrections facilities reaching 3,002.” But let’s not stop here.
The majority are incarcerated for drug/alcohol related charges. According to a report published in 2010 by the Oklahoma Dept. of Corrections, Incarceration of Women in Oklahoma, nearly 70% of the charges that put women behind bars were drug or alcohol related. This is consistent with assessments of this same population showing that 64% had a moderate to high need for substance abuse treatment.
Thousands of children in Oklahoma are being raised by someone besides their mother because mom is incarcerated. According to a study published in cooperation with the Oklahoma Commission on Children and Youth, it was estimated that of the 2357 women who were incarcerated in Oklahoma in 2010, they were also the mothers of over 4600 children under the age of 18.
It is said that “death comes in threes.” What a compelling example of this macabre proverb:
1) Oklahoma incarcerates more women than any other state in the union.
2) The majority are incarcerated for drug/alcohol related charges.
3) Many of them still have children under the age of 18.
We have a very big problem; a deadly problem that needs life-giving, Kingdom attention. How can we as the Kingdom of God confront this problem head on in rural communities and bring redemption and life into a world of addiction and destruction? (Stayed tuned!)