First group of women set for graduation from Oklahoma County diversion program
OKLAHOMA CITY — ReMerge of Oklahoma County will hold a graduation ceremony at 10 a.m. Monday, March 25 at the Oklahoma History Center, 800 Nazih Zuhdi Drive, for the first participants who have graduated from ReMerge, a female diversion program designed to transform pregnant women and mothers facing incarceration into productive community citizens.
ReMerge is a four-phase program, designed to be about a year long, created to hold participants accountable while providing the necessary services to support their recovery and promote responsible parenting.
ReMerge is patterned on successful diversion programs across the United States and in Tulsa, where the best-known such effort is “Women in Recovery,” the focus of several reports from CapitolBeatOK in the past few years (http://www.capitolbeatok.com/reports/wir-s-story-is-evidence-that-justice-reinvestment-can-work).
Those reports included detailed expositions (http://www.capitolbeatok.com/reports/women-in-recovery-why-the-program-works) on the core principles of accountability and responsibility that lie behind data-proven programs across America that have turned offenders away from crime to responsible citizenship as taxpayers, workers and law-abiding ways of life.
Participating in the graduation event will be Kris Steele, Former Oklahoma House Speaker who is presently Executive Director for The Education and Employment Ministry (TEEM) in Oklahoma City, ReMerge Program Director Terri Woodland, and ReMerge Council member Tricia Everest.
During his years at the state Capitol, Steele led the drive for criminal justice reforms patterned on successful programs in Texas and other states that have reduced crime rates while moderating (and in some cases lowering) Corrections costs.
About ReMerge of Oklahoma County:
ReMerge is a public/private partnership that works closely with the District Attorney and Public Defender’s offices, Oklahoma Department of Corrections, Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services and a group of other nonprofits in the community to assist women who are facing nonviolent felony convictions.
ReMerge is explicitly designed as an alternative to incarceration for women who would otherwise face prison time.
Clients may enter the program at any time. The program has been divided into four phases where each phase is anticipated to last from 30 to 90 days depending upon the needs and progress of the individual client.
A treatment plan is developed for each participant to individualize treatment and address unique family, education and employment needs. Program funders include the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services, the Oklahoma Department of Corrections, Inasmuch Foundation, SandRidge Energy, Chesapeake Energy, George Kaiser Family Foundation (a Tulsa-based organization that has provided the impetus for Women in Recovery) (http://www.capitolbeatok.com/reports/women-in-recovery-why-the-program-works), energy industry leader Tom Ward, NorthCare and United Way of Central Oklahoma.
NOTE: Pat McGuigan contributed to this story.