Norman – Oklahoma is known for its high incarceration rate of females per capita in the United States. The statistics are startling, but they are just numbers. What about the people behind those numbers? They are mothers, sisters, aunts and grandmothers who leave behind children and loved ones when they are imprisoned.
Women Behind Bars, a documentary by Amina Benalioulhaj, takes a look at the human side of women in prison in the state of Oklahoma. Based on the research of University of Oklahoma College of Arts and Sciences professor Susan Sharp, Benalioulhaj takes her camera to prisons and to homes and to law enforcement offices and programs supporting the children of incarcerated women for a glimpse into the effects that ripple out from the loss of one woman to prison.
The film is set to premier at deadCENTER Film Festival beginning at 4 p.m. Saturday, June 11, at the Ronald J. Norick Downtown Library, 300 Park Ave., Oklahoma City. There is no admission charge.
“I see myself in these women,” said Benalioulhaj. “I want a better world for future generations in Oklahoma. I want to see women’s human rights respected and embraced. People may feel confused, angry, sad, inspired, but I hope they see these women not as criminals, but as human beings.”
Benalioulhaj, a recent women’s and gender studies graduate, worked with fellow OU College of Arts and Sciences alumna Cassie Ketrick and OU Weitzenhoffer Family College of Fine Arts alumni Sarah Warmker and Brent Goddard on the film.
According to Sharp’s research, approximately 60 percent of Oklahoma’s female prisoners have been the victims of sexual and physical abuse as children; more than 90 percent have been the victims of domestic violence in their adult lives; and nearly all of them suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder related to these experiences. Sharp’s research also has shown that children with an incarcerated mother are five times as likely to end up in prison themselves; their grades suffer; and they experience higher rates of depression.
The L.J. Semrod Presidential Professor in the Department of Sociology, Sharp is the recipient of numerous university and professional awards, including the OU Student Association President’s Award for Teaching Excellence; Most Inspiring Faculty Award from OU student-athletes; Rufus G. Hall Faculty Award; OU Good Teaching Award; Kenneth G. Crook Faculty Award; Kinney-Sugg Outstanding Professor in the College of Arts and Sciences Award; Phil Wahl Abolitionist of the Year Award; and the Saltzman Award of the Division on Women and Crime of the American Society of Criminology.
For more information on Women Behind Bars, contact Amina Benalioulhaj at email@example.com or www.womenbehindbarsthefilm.com.
The University of Oklahoma, 660 Parrington Oval, Norman, OK 73019-0390 (405) 325-0311.