The Tulsa World on Sunday examined a short documentary film about incarcerated women in Oklahoma and a peer education program that teaches them about HIV prevention and other social issues. The Tulsa Community AIDS Partnership recently hosted an event featuring the film and a panel discussion about HIV among the state's female prison population.
The film, titled "Empowering the Yard" and filmed at the Eddie Warrior Correction Center in Taft, features the 15-year-old peer education program. Under the program, which won a Robert Wood Johnson Community Health Leadership Program Award in 2002, college professors teach the women, who receive college credit, about HIV/AIDS and other issues. After completing the curriculum about women's theory and HIV prevention, the women teach others in the prison, according to Melanie Spector, health education researcher for the state's Department of Corrections, who founded the program. "It's a whole cadre of women's developmental theory and women's developmental issues that can all lead to HIV transmission," Spector said.
Janice Nicklas, director of TCAP, said Oklahoma incarcerates more women per capita than any other state, adding, "It's just a situation we really need to focus a lot of attention on and go a different direction in." Nicklas added that the film and following panel discussion should demonstrate that the state needs to do more to help women with mental health and substance use problems, instead of only sending them to prison. "We want to bring all parties into the discussion and see if we can do something about it," she said (Muchmore, Tulsa World, 7/20).
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