Feb. 14, 2023 – Twenty women with felony records and a history of drug use are standing on the stage in a crowded auditorium in Tulsa, and the audience is rising in a standing ovation. The women are teary as they see the cops who arrested them, applauding wildly. It’s the happiest of graduations, and through the raucous cheering one glimpses a better way of dealing with drug and alcohol abuse.

You see, against all odds, this is an uplifting article about America’s curse of addiction.

The graduation was from the single best program I know of to fight substance use. It’s called Women in Recovery, and it’s a diversion program for women in the greater Tulsa area who otherwise face prison for drug-related offenses.

Women in Recovery says that 70 percent of women who start the program complete it, and of those who graduate, just 3.7 percent have returned to prison within three years of graduation. Roughly 130 women are in the program at any time.

As I watched the graduation, my imagination soared: What if everyone with a drug problem who was caught up in the criminal justice system had access to a comprehensive and long-term recovery program like this?