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Capitol summit to discuss women's incarceration, health and leadership



In the beginning of her poem "A Life Worth Living," state resident Barbara Saunders writes of women forging such an existence in the midst of a risk-laced environment: prison " which she experienced firsthand as an inmate in an Oklahoma correctional facility in the Nineties.

But, according to statistics, Oklahoma women face a precarious position trying to eke out a quality life as residents of the state itself, in which more women are incarcerated than anywhere else nationwide, and rates of domestic abuse, women murdered by men, unintended pregnancy and more rank high.

"The status of women in Oklahoma is depressingly low, and if you were doing the same study for men, it would be low in a lot of ways too, just because we are a poor state," said Oklahoma Women's Network founder Jean Warner.

But, it doesn't have to be that way. Incarcerated women in Oklahoma will be one of three issues Saunders, Warner and a slew of other women will grapple with as part of the 2008 Oklahoma Women's Summit Friday in the House chambers at the state Capitol. Sessions on Oklahoma women's health and leadership will round out the daylong, every-other-year event, offered by the Oklahoma Commission on the Status of Women.

After a lunch, adverse childhood events, unintended pregnancies and health in maturing years are slated for discussion as part of the summit's Oklahoma women's health segment, headlined with a presentation by Wanda Jones, the national deputy assistant secretary of health (women's health) in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Jones has initiated efforts to reduce health disparities and improve quality of life for women, including in addressing violence, disabilities, HIV/AIDS, mental and global health. "? Emily Jerman

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