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prison

A warning sign near Davis Correctional Facility in Holdenville.
Quinton Chandler / StateImpact Oklahoma

Runaway inmates from low security areas is common, but the number leaving a prison in Taft is shocking residents.

Owner Sylvia Wilson, center, sits with a customer and an employee at Boots Cafe in Taft, Oklahoma.
Quinton Chandler / Oklahoma Engaged

If you follow your nose to the back of Boots Cafe, you’ll run into swinging wood doors hanging underneath a metal script sign of the word ‘Blessed.’

Inmates walk their training dogs at Mabel Bassett Correction Center in McLoud.
Kate Carlton Greer / KGOU

Oklahoma has now overtaken Louisiana as the state with the highest incarceration rate in the country, according to data from the Prison Policy Initiative.

Here & Now's Jeremy Hobson speaks with John Carl, a professor of sociology and criminology at the University of Oklahoma, about how the rate got so high and what kind of overhaul is in motion.

Interview Highlights

Quinton Chandler / StateImpact Oklahoma

Baby Roman is just waking up from his afternoon nap and now he’s looking for a toy. His grandfather, Frank McCarrell, is trying to distract him from the house’s décor with a bottle of milk.

“He don’t usually be asleep this time,” said McCarrell, who just finished his workday to babysit for his daughter. “When I come home … usually he’s up and raring to go. Huh? You be running Papa around?

Reveal: Does The Time Fit The Crime?

Oct 2, 2017
The number of women in U.S. prisons and jails has increased more than 700 percent since 1980. And for 25 years, Oklahoma has led the nation in locking up women. This week on Reveal, we look at the causes behind this spike.
Ben Fine / Reveal

This week on Reveal, we take a look at prisons as a part of our series And Justice for Some.

The number of women in U.S. prisons has increased more than 700 percent since 1980. And for nearly all of that time, Oklahoma has led the nation in locking up women. Reveal Senior Editor Ziva Branstetter teams up with Allison Herrera and The Frontier, an Oklahoma-based investigative news website, to find out why.

prison bars
mikecogh / Flickr Creative Commons

A legal challenge, partly spearheaded by Oklahoma leaders, has blocked the federal government from setting limits on how much inmates and their families can be charged for in-state telephone calls.

The U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in 2-1 decision Tuesday that the Federal Communications Commission exceeded its authority in creating a national rule that sought to cap fees on intrastate phone calls for the first time.

McAlester's 4th Ward councilman Robert Karr stands in front of his home in Oct. 2016
Kate Carlton Greer / KGOU

After finishing up work at the airplane manufacturing plant where Robert Karr has worked for more than three decades, the McAlester city councilman drives his pickup truck around the town's 4th ward. Karr has lived in this area almost his entire life, save for six years when his family moved out of town.

 

His 4th ward roots are deep, and Karr knows his constituents well.

Wesley Fryer / Flickr

Lawmakers passed a series of bills yesterday designed to ease the severe overcrowding in Oklahoma’s prisons. Gov. Mary Fallin outlined her goal to reduce Oklahoma's incarceration rate during her State of the State address in February. Oklahoma has the highest number of females behind bars per capita in the U.S., and the rate of incarcerated men ranks near the top as well.

President Obama tours the El Reno Federal Correctional Institution on July 16, 2015
Kate Carlton Greer / KGOU

President Obama became the first sitting president to visit a federal prison Thursday when he toured the El Reno Federal Correctional Institution outside Oklahoma City. During his trip, Obama urged reconsideration of the current criminal justice system.

President Obama walked down Cell Block B, taking in the two-story medium security prison, with a corrections officer and Federal Bureau of Prisons Director Charles Samuels. He peeked inside a tiny 90 square foot cell that holds up to three inmates, which he said highlights the need for prison reform.

President Obama speaking in Cushing, Oklahoma in March 2012.
Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

President Obama plans to visit Oklahoma to discuss expanding economic opportunities in Indian Country, and make the first visit to a federal prison by a sitting chief executive.

White House spokesman Keith Maley said in an email the president will arrive in Oklahoma Wednesday, July 15 and travel to Durant, where he'll visit the Choctaw Nation. He'll stay overnight before traveling to the El Reno Correctional Institution.

The medium-security facility for male offenders houses about 1,300 inmates and once housed Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh.

Tim (Timothy) Pearce / Flickr.com

The Oklahoma Department of Corrections currently has 99 offenders categorized as fugitives, but most of those are from work-release programs, halfway houses or GPS monitoring.

Several Oklahoma fugitives, however, have escaped from medium- or maximum-security facilities, and some have been living on the run for decades.

Those include:

Kenneth Cook, now 85, convicted of first-degree manslaughter, who escaped from the Oklahoma State Reformatory in Granite on Nov. 24, 1986;

A decade-old beating haunted Nikki Frazier while she served time in prison.
Oklahoma Department of Corrections

In her dorm at Dr. Eddie Warrior Correctional Center in Taft, anxiety attacks used to waken Nikki Frazier in the middle of the night. For about an hour she would sit on her bed, shaking, sweaty and nauseous.

“It would feel like I was having a heart attack,” Frazier said. “It was just a big ball of weight in my chest, and it was so bad.”

Frazier could point to one source of her anxiety: In 2005, she got into a dispute with her then-husband, and he kicked her repeatedly in the face with steel-toed boots, for which he was later convicted. Six years later, a doctor cited the beating in diagnosing Frazier with post-traumatic stress disorder, severe anxiety and depression.

Serving a prison sentence for forging checks, Frazier suffered attacks for months until she was able to see a psychiatrist and get on a different medication. But she said she could never truly calm her anxiety until she was released in February. She gained control over her life and began receiving one-on-one counseling.

Frazier’s mental-health struggles reflect those of hundreds of women in Oklahoma prisons.

Oklahoma Women Suffer PTSD

Oklahoma Watch obtained detailed data on mental health diagnoses for men and women in prison from the state Department of Corrections and found dramatic differences in their conditions.

According to the data – a snapshot in late March – nearly 60 percent of female inmates show signs of mental illness, about twice the percentage of male inmates. A total of 3,104 women and 25,620 men were in the corrections system at the time.

Women also suffer disproportionately from depression – 64 percent versus 59 percent of men.

But the most striking difference occurs with trauma disorders. PTSD is the second most common mental illness among incarcerated women, with about one in five showing symptoms, or five times the rate for men.