In 2016, the number of women sent to Oklahoma prisons rose by 9.5 percent, data from the Oklahoma Department of Corrections reveals. The state continues to have rising female incarceration rates and is among the highest in the nation.
Thanks to communal support and grants, Oklahoma now has another resource to address that number. The Destiny Recovery Center, a nonprofit organization that transitions former drug users into a more productive lifestyle, opened an additional sober-living facility — the Liberty House — about three weeks ago to better facilitate a backlogged waiting list.
The Liberty House at 1708 Cherokee St. joins the Destiny House as a 10-bed capacity sober-living facility underneath the Destiny umbrella. Women who have been charged with a drug possession felony can complete special programs — as approved by District Attorneys offices across the state — to avoid jail time.
Judy Cavnar, founder of Destiny, said around 2013 was when she decided to spearhead a rehabilitation program that focused on “education-based” rather than “faith-based.” While Cavnar was serving as a board member of Broadway House — before founding Destiny with Connie Varon — she saw several women complete the program only to have to contend for jobs, apartments and more with citizens who have never had a felony.
“Once these women completed the programs, they gained sobriety, but just that,” Cavnar said. “Every lady that comes in can use some continued education.”
Leading women into vocational or technical professions, such as welding or forklift driving, provides more incentives for employers to look past felonies, Cavnar believes. She cited examples of several women that have gone through the program and onto further education in order to gain unique skills, which has landed them jobs and reintegrating them back into society.
The next step from sober living facilities like Destiny and Liberty centers is the Journey center, which Cavnar described as independent living with medium supervision.
“They may have graduated from a sober living facility, but they will tell us, ‘I’m not ready,’ even though the judge said they completed their time,” Cavnar said. “When you go into Journey, we make you understand that you’re on your own.”
Guiding women back into life by equipping them with skills beyond just sobriety is a guiding principle for Destiny, Cavnar said. Through interpersonal rehabilitation and one-on-one consultation, she believes Destiny is better equipping them for recovery than just completing a regimen of mandatory classes.
“We never forget they’re adults. These ladies come in as adults, and we talk to them as adults,” Cavnar said. “We are a team here. We’re partners. The only thing we have for you is to graduate, be successful and go out and be proud of who you are despite mistakes.”