Stakeholders Target Gaps, Disparities in Laws Covering Women in Oklahoma

Article excerpt

A cosmetologist convicted of a felony loses her license and cannot regain it after she gets out of prison, but attorneys and doctors who run afoul of the law can be reinstated and practice again, if they meet certain criteria, Anne Hodges Morgan told a group of women's advocates Wednesday.

We hope to be the catalyst for some genuine systemic changes, Morgan said.

Morgan, who chairs the Women's Foundation of Oklahoma, was among those addressing the first meeting of the Oklahoma Women's Justice Project at the Oklahoma Bar Center.

Gayla Machell, director of marketing and development for Legal Aid Services of Oklahoma, said the project is aimed at compiling laws affecting women disproportionately, identifying gaps and disparities and developing a resource guide for women to use to locate services.

The project is being funded by the foundation. Students from the law schools at the University of Oklahoma, Oklahoma City University and the University of Tulsa are undertaking the compilation.

Delores Beeler, with Resonance Center for Women in Tulsa, said that as a former felon, she cannot recover her right to vote until the term of her sentence expires several years from now, although she is out of prison and helping other women recover their lives.

Both male and female felons lose their voting rights.

Other speakers identified laws, policies and attitudes they say treat women unfairly.

Attorney Giovanni Perry said the current anti-immigrant fervor makes undocumented victims of domestic violence hesitant to contact appropriate agencies for help, fearing they will be turned in to federal authorities.

K.C. Moon, director of the Criminal Justice Resource Center, said a 2005 study found that one reason Oklahoma leads the nation in incarceration of women is that it imprisons people for many crimes for which other states do not mandate jail time.

Moon said these include many crimes women are more likely to commit, such as shoplifting. He said other states may arrest women at about the same rate as Oklahoma, but they do not send them to prison as frequently.

Bernice Mitchell, with the Governor's Commission on the Status of Women, said Oklahoma lacks programs to help such women. …