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Program Aimed To Help Oklahoma Women Facing Financial Challenges

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Rusty Surette, News 9

NORMAN, OK -- The future of the Second Chance Act Program (S-CAP) of Cleveland County is in jeopardy, despite its proven track record of keeping women from returning to jail or prison, according to a news release by the organization. By reducing the recidivism rate, the program has saved money for the county and state government while putting women on track to become productive members of their community. The program was started by Sheriff Joe Lester in 2010 to reduce the problems of jail overcrowding.

S-CAP for Women is a program which helps incarcerated, non-violent female offenders access services they need as they make the transition back into normal life. The program helps these women by giving them access to mental health and substance abuse services, assistance finding jobs and housing, and managing their legal issues. It is an effective program; however, its funding will be discontinued as of July 1, 2012. The program has helped to keep women from returning to jail. For example, the estimated rate of recidivism for women in Cleveland County is between 60 to 70 percent. That rate is drastically reduced to 25 to 30 percent for women who participate in the S-CAP program. This saves money and makes room for hardened criminals in county and state facilities.

Other evidence of the program's success:

• 66% of participants needing mental health and substance abuse services were successfully provided care;

• 67% of participants successfully found employment after detention;

• 68% of participants got the housing they needed for their families after incarceration.

S-CAP also helps women find educational resources to develop and broaden their skills. The program offers work training programs and helps to develop "soft skills" such as resume building, job interviews, and work place conduct.

Additionally, women who participate in the program receive help with their legal issues, post incarceration. S-CAP reminds the women of court appointments and helps manage legal debt. Most women owe an average of $7,200 due to legal issues and are unable to pay the debt even weeks after release.

Despite this evidence of helping women get back on track with their lives and saving our taxpayer dollars, the government funding for S-CAP is being discontinued. The program's organizers are now reaching out for help from the community and others. While they are applying for various grants, that takes time and time is running out.

Tax deductible donations may be sent to the United Way of Norman; please designate the donations for S-CAP. For more information, contact Beth Jones at (405) 701-8163 or (405) 227-9872.

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