2013 proves to be a promising and full year for Vision 2020 Oklahoma Delegate, Adeline Meismer Yerkes. After rising to Chair of the Oklahoma Commission on the Status of Women in the spring of 2011, Yerkes was reelected in 2012 to serve a second. Through her position as Chair of the Commission, Yerkes looks forward to advancing the goals of her Vision 2020 State Initiative, Reducing the Incarceration of Women in Oklahoma, as this is one of the three focal points of the Commission.
Oklahoma has the highest incarceration rate for women of any state in the nation. Oklahoma incarcerates 134 women per 100,000 population compared to the national average of 69. Many in the state are affected by the thousands of women incarcerated, as the majority of these women have children under the age of 18. Yerkes, who has worked in this area of interest since 1994, could see the effect these incarceration rates were having on the status of women in Oklahoma as well as the correlation between these statistics and the impact they have on the state’s livelihood. She decided to confront the issue from a preventative standpoint when preparing her State Initiative with Vision 2020: “I plan to work with the Count the Cost Coalition and the Oklahoma Commission on the Status of Women to bring about awareness of the issue and to make change in Oklahoma communities on sentencing and pre-incarceration interventions.”
Along with addressing the issue of the high rates of incarceration among women in the state, Yerkes and the Commission plan to address two other imperative issues in 2013 that currently afflict Oklahoma: human trafficking of women in the state and women’s healthcare. Yerkes is working with female legislators in the state in hopes to pass new legislation in 2013 to protect victims of human trafficking in Oklahoma. Trafficking has become a growing problem in the state as well as across the nation. Oklahoma is one of the destination routes for trafficked persons due to its intersection of 3 major interstate systems.
The Commission is also looking forward to raise awareness of another pertinent issue that affects the health of Oklahoman women. Yerkes worked to co-sponsor a day-long workshop on women, obesity and diabetes last year and she plans to carry this work into 2013 as well. Yerkes is very familiar with the topic, as she also runs a consulting business which works with women who have been diagnosed with gestational diabetes and their children, as they learn to cope with their new lifestyle.
Yerkes is very optimistic for the work Oklahoma has in store for 2013, as the Commission targets significant issues on a local level: “Our hopes for this year are to address these three major issues in order to improve and advance the work of the Oklahoma Commission on the Status of Women as well as and to honor the 30th anniversary of the Oklahoma Women’s Hall of Fame and the 100+ women who have been inducted since its conception. I appreciate the support that Vision 2020 has shown me and the Oklahoma Commission on the Status of Women as we address such important causes.”
Join Vision 2020 today by becoming a member and help us advance women’s economic and social equality through our Five National Goals: Pay equality, more women in leadership positions, family-friendly workplace policies, voter mobilization, and civic engagement.