OKLAHOMA CITY -- In 1908, Kate Barnard, Oklahoma's first commissioner of charities and corrections, traveled to Lansing, Kan., to investigate the alleged torture and mistreatment of Oklahoma prisoners incarcerated there because the new state had no prison.
Barnard, elected before women had the right to vote, had been instrumental in lobbying the first Oklahoma Legislature to adopt prison laws then among the most progressive in the nation. "In Oklahoma," she said, "we would do differently."
When the prisoners at Lansing were brought back in 1909 to Oklahoma, 16 women were among them.
Today, Kansas lawmakers are earning accolades for prison reforms that have reduced inmate populations by creating alternatives for some offenders. In Oklahoma, the number of incarcerated women is at a historic high.
Though corrections officials say that rates of crimes and convictions by women in both states are comparable, today Oklahoma women end up in prison three times as often as women in Kansas.