Tulsa, OK,
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Hope for the Hopeless

Women in Recovery Program Changes Lives

Sabrina Mabry had hit rock bottom. She was tired of living a life addicted to drugs and making unhealthy decisions. She was on her way back to jail. Again.

She had nowhere to turn. No one to help. No hope.

For some women in Oklahoma, this is a common story.

Oklahoma has the dubious distinction of a female incarceration rate nearly twice the national average. Tulsa County is the largest contributor to the statistic. Nearly 3,000 women are in Oklahoma prisons with an estimated 7,000 children impacted. More than 75 percent of the arrests are for non-violent offenses.

According to the George Kaiser Family Foundation, the path for many of these women to incarceration begins early, with physical and sexual abuse, a chaotic home environment and poverty. These challenges lead to problems in school, followed by substance abuse and addiction. To top it off, children with incarcerated parents in turn have a significant risk of being incarcerated themselves. Without some type of intervention, the heartbreaking cycle seems unstoppable.

Going back to jail became a yearly occurrence for Sabrina. “I finally came to the point where I realized that I needed something different in my life. I craved structure and stability, but the only place that gave me that was prison. I was looking for a hope that I didn’t think existed.”

Enter hope in the form of the Women in Recovery program.

With a focus on improving the lives of at-risk women and children, the George Kaiser Family Foundation prioritized an innovative community response to address the unprecedented rate of female incarceration in Oklahoma. The Foundation partnered with non-profit Family Children’s Services and developed Women in Recovery. The program gives women an alternative to the destructive lifestyles they have become addicted to. It rehabilitates non-violent female offenders with children, and includes substance abuse treatment, trauma therapy, safe housing, parenting classes, employment and vocational training, and health and dental care.

Women in Recovery trains women for the workforce and offers employment through partnerships with several Tulsa businesses and non-profits. As Sabrina worked her way through the program, she started to gain confidence, and eventually landed a job as a quality control technician for a company that manufactures complex metal components for the airline industry. She loves the stability and structure that the work offers.

But on this day, Mabry is busy pulling weeds and picking up trash in a north Tulsa neighborhood for the non-profit Rebuilding Together Tulsa. Part of the Women in Recovery program is giving back through volunteerism. Rebuilding Together teaches basic construction skills to the participants so they can in turn help others. State Farm gives a grant to Rebuilding Together Tulsa for their outstanding work offering employable skills training to women in the program.

Dianne Hughes, the program director of self-sufficiency for Women in Recovery, says that partnerships with businesses and non-profits that hire participants offer another step toward self-sufficiency. “A Rebuilding Together Tulsa representative meets with the women every month to discuss the difference between basic tools and how to use them. In turn, our participants volunteer for events like Rebuilding so we can give back to the community as well.”

Sabrina is a new person these days. She is sober, and has been part of the Women in Recovery program for 11 months. Thanks to her participation, she is employed and looking for her own house. She volunteers her time to help others on a regular basis.

But more than any of those things, if you look closely, you can see a smile on her face and hope in her eyes.

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