Free Film Screening about Oklahoma’s female incarceration: ‘Women in Prison: America’s Forgotten Voices’

Film Screening and Panel Discussion on Women’s Incarceration in Oklahoma
Incarceration rates for women have increased 800% across the nation. In #Oklahoma alone, the number of women locked away in prisons has increased more than 17-fold, from 176 in 1978 to 3,114 in 2017. We continue to lead the nation in female incarceration, only second to Idaho, and this devastating phenomenon has caught the attention of the world.
Join us in a private screening of the film Women in Prison: America’s Forgotten Voices by French film studio StudioFact Rights documenting the mass incarceration of women in Oklahoma.
Afterwards we will be joined by Kris Steele, the Executive Director of TEEM, Colleen McCarty, the Executive Director of Oklahoma Appleseed Center for Law and Justice, and Tondalao Hall, an advocate for reform and formerly incarcerated individual.

The program Poetic Justice is showcased in this documentary. April Wilkens was a part of that program last year, but is not featured. Colleen McCarty of Oklahoma Appleseed Center for Law and Justice is on the panel. McCarty is the co-host of the Panic Button podcast, whose first season told the ongoing story of April Wilkens.


Free Film Screening about Oklahoma’s female incarceration: ‘Women in Prison: America’s Forgotten Voices’

If you’re new here, welcome!

If you are new to our Free April Wilkens social media and blog, welcome! Here’s some info to get you oriented.¬†

April Wilkens is an Oklahoma woman currently incarcerated for killing her wealthy rapist and kidnapper to defend herself. It happened in Tulsa over 20 years ago. Since then, she has not found justice in our state. As you might know, Oklahoma was just rated the worst state for women in a new WalletHub study, but it said nothing about our female incarceration rate and how harshly we sentence women. Susan Sharp, faculty at the University of Oklahoma, wrote a book about how terribly we punish women called Mean Lives, Mean Laws and she was interviewed in recent coverage of April’s case. 

April suffered from battered woman syndrome and was not believed by Tulsa Police when she would report Terry Carlton’s abuse. They did not enforce a warrant for Terry Carlton‚Äôs arrest and Terry Carlton would even brag about paying them off. She later shot and killed him in self-defense after going to his house to confront him about terrorizing her, breaking into her home, and stealing her things. The Carltons agreed to a 20 year plea deal that April did not take, but it shows that the Carlton family did not fear her, as they have protested in the past. She could be out by now if she had, but just this month she was denied parole again. This comes days after the only woman on the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board, Kelly Doyle, resigned under the political pressure of Governor Kevin Stitt. Doyle was harassed by the Attorney General and a DA.¬† In the span of a year, every single member of the board has changed, except for Larry Morris ‚Äď April‚Äôs only YES vote this time around. He‚Äôs one member not appointed by the Governor.

In the past, she has at least gotten a hearing. But not this time. Her parole jacket was denied by a 1-3 vote. In 2019 she was just one vote shy of getting a full parole recommendation. What is more, a few years after April’s trial, another woman argued the same Battered Woman Syndrome defense after killing her husband in his sleep and only got four years, only to have her conviction overturned.

During her trial, then-DA Tim Harris claimed she “cried rape” and a tape where Terry Carlton admitted to abusing and raping her was never played in court. We are sure that how her trial was handled then would not be allowed to happen today. What is more, the appeals court judge, Charles Johnson, was a family friend of the Carltons, officiating the wedding of two family members, one before the trial that April even attended. After her trial, Tim Harris also took money from the Carltons for his campaign and they hosted a reception for him. After this, Harris was still allowed to argue against April when she appealed, despite her attempts to disqualify him.

An attorney, Lynn Worley, who attended April’s trial in consideration for working in the Tulsa DA’s office later wrote in support of April and said that she was so angry about how Harris sucked up to the Carltons that she left the state for a time.¬†What’s more, we cannot get a lot of local Tulsa news coverage of this story because Carlton’s family owns car dealerships in Tulsa and they threaten to pull funding/ads from them if they cover her story (most recently she was interviewed this month and a radio station dropped her story when the Carltons objected). Beyond this, these local news stations are what paid for the trip for the Carltons where Terry abused April in Europe! In the timeline are linked documents backing all of this up.

During the same March meeting dates this month, the parole board voted to fully recommend parole for the Crossbow Killer, but April couldn’t even get a hearing. What is the point of being sentenced to life with the possibility of parole if there is nothing she can do to ever attain it? It might as well be a life sentence, even though she is doing everything right while incarcerated.

We have started a petition to get the attention of the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board AND Governor Kevin Stitt. Please consider signing and sharing it.

If you’re new here, welcome!

April Wilkens was denied parole for a fourth time this month by the all-male Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board

Scott Williams voted against woman April Wilkens Ed Konieczny voted against woman April Wilkens former-DA Richard Smothermon voted against April Wilkens Larry MorrisApril Wilkens was denied parole for a fourth time this month by the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board. Richard Smothermon, Edward Konieczny, and Scott Williams all voted against this woman. Larry Morris was her only yes vote, but this time, she didn’t even get a parole hearing. However, the board, this same month, voted to give a full recommendation to the Crossbow Killer, a man whose female victim died by a poisoned arrow. Does this seem fair to you?

In the latest news VNN coverage of April’s case, OU faculty Susan Sharp is interviewed. She wrote the book Mean Lives, Mean Laws, about how Oklahoma oversentences and overpunishes women incarcerated in our state. April Wilkens is a prime example of how women are treated.¬†The board is currently all men, and it shows.

It is an injustice that these men voted against even giving April Wilkens a voice. Did they even read the letters of support sent in? Did they even read April’s letter to them? They need to read Prison Policy’s latest report.

We will try for commutation next, but it will still the be the same all-male board (unless a woman is appointed to replace Kelly Doyle, who resigned just days before they voted on April’s parole jacket). We are putting together a petition, but in the meantime, please lift your voice in support of April’s. You can contact the board and explain your view on this issue:¬† or leave a voice mail message at 405-522-9227.

April Wilkens was denied parole for a fourth time this month by the all-male Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board

Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board will give full recommendation to the Crossbow Killer (whose victim died by a poisoned arrow), but won’t even grant April Wilkens a parole hearing

Crossbow Killer gets a rec but April Wilkens can't even get a hearing

Now, we aren’t saying that Jimmie Stohler, (AKA the Crossbow Killer) isn’t deserving of parole. The governor, Kevin Stitt, still has to sign off on it anyway. But what we are saying is it is an injustice to keep a grandmother locked up and not even granting her a parole hearing when she has gotten one in the past. Her crime? She defended herself from her rapist and abuser. As you all know, she was sentenced to Life with the Possibility of Parole, but there seems to be NOTHING she can do to attain parole. She was just denied parole for the 4th time this month after we had so much hope. Our next fight is commutation and we are not giving up, but that decision will also rest with the same all-male Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board. We are watching the news to see the 5th and newest member appointed to the board after Kelly Doyle resigned days before April’s denial (she had been a YES vote for April in the past). We must do all we can to hold them accountable for how they treat women in our state.

This is just one more example of how Oklahoma treats and punishes its women more harshly.

Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board will give full recommendation to the Crossbow Killer (whose victim died by a poisoned arrow), but won’t even grant April Wilkens a parole hearing

Shame on former-DA Richard Smothermon of the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board for voting NO yesterday, March 7, 2022 against giving April Wilkens a parole hearing.

Shame on former-DA Richard Smothermon of the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board for voting NO yesterday, March 7, 2022 against giving April Wilkens a parole hearing.

Update on new stories coming out from VNN about April Wilkens, Oklahoma woman in prison decades after defending herself from her abuser

Read the previous story from VNN about April Wilkens.

Read the Timeline of events for April’s case.

Update on new stories coming out from VNN about April Wilkens, Oklahoma woman in prison decades after defending herself from her abuser

What April Wilkens sent to the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board for her Jacket

¬†¬†¬†¬† My name is April Wilkens, and I am a 51 year-old grandmother in my 24th year of incarceration.¬† I have had no misconducts in prison for over 21 years.¬† I was sent to prison in January 2000 after spending 21 months in the Tulsa jail.¬† I turned my life around behind bars by getting close to God and other people who love God.¬† I have faithfully participated in Redeeming Love Prison Ministry (“RLPM”) for almost 24 years.¬† (RLPM ministers at the Tulsa jail and several Oklahoma prisons.)¬† It was my honor to volunteer and help build the chapel here at Mabel Bassett Correctional Center (“MBCC”) where our services are held.¬† To be sure, I did not come to prison and find God.¬† God was not lost, I was.¬† I was so lost when I met Terry Carlton that I wasn’t even sure if God was real.¬† Now I know without a doubt that God is closer than the air I breathe and Jesus’ love has redeemed me.¬† By the grace of God, I have overcome the mental and physical trauma I’ve suffered, and I haven’t abused drugs since 1998.¬† Character is created in the crucible of pain.¬† The Lord has used everything that’s happened to mold me into a wiser, stronger, more compassionate person who now helps others overcome through Christ.

Here are a few of my accomplishments behind bars:


*¬† In 2021, I became the first and so far only woman to make over a million dollars for TruEnergy, an energy brokerage firm.¬† It only took me about four years to accomplish that feat.¬† In 2017, I was one of 10 women at MBCC chosen by TruEnergy to open its first female site, and one of the first two selected to actually become energy brokers.¬† I also designed and coordinated the firm’s Closer Academy, a training program consisting of months of classes and a one-year internship, which teaches women and men how to become successful energy brokers, a job skill they can use to make a good living.


*¬† I was one of the first six participants to complete the Guardian Angel Dog Training Program in 2014 and went on to teach other participants how to train rescued dogs.¬† We are featured in the “Bassett Tales” documentary about the inception of the dog program at MBCC.


*  In 2020, I helped create and organize the ROSE Network that keeps family and friends of MBCC prisoners connected and informed about issues at MBCC.


*  I am a live-in caregiver for a mentally ill prisoner who has been diagnosed with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.  Prison staff have utilized me as a live-in mentor for at-risk prisoners, including youths, in the past as well.


*  I have completed 16 rehabilitative programs and classes including Domestic Violence, Substance Abuse Education, Impact of Crime on Victims, Parenting, Mentoring, Assertiveness Training, Anger Management, and Thinking for a Change, to name a few.


*  I was the Valedictorian of Horticulture CareerTech in 2002 and tutored other students in the program.  I worked in the gardens for over a decade.


*  I serve as a fitness trainer helping others get in shape.  I have led several fitness classes in prison and currently lead the weightlifting class.  I am also coordinating the Running Club startup.  I began running in prison about 20 years ago and ran my first marathon at MBCC in 2017.


*  I was on the first MBCC Rodeo Team and competed in the Oklahoma State Penitentiary rodeo in 2006.


Briefly, here are the facts of my case.  I did not know when I became engaged to Terry Carlton in 1995 that his ex-wife and ex-girlfriend had both previously filed protective orders against him.  We met earlier that year at a business he owned.  I was 25 and he was 37.  He treated me like a princess at first.  The abuse started in early 1996 and he mentally, verbally, physically, and sexually abused me over the next two years.  I had three protective orders against him. The violence escalated whenever I tried to end the relationship.

Now-Federal Judge Claire Eagan represented me in my November 1996 protective order application against Terry.¬† She saved an audiotape I gave her of him admitting he choked, beat, and raped me and that he was the sole perpetrator of violence.¬† Neither Judge Eagan’s testimony nor the tape was presented at trial because, as she stated in a supporting affidavit, my trial attorney didn’t contact her.

I eventually learned Terry was using drugs, and regrettably I started using drugs with him in 1997 about a year after the violence began.  I had come to feel like I had no control left over my own body and mind.   I was broken and blamed myself.  I was so ashamed and humiliated.  I had no self-esteem or self-worth left.

By early 1998, after I left Terry for good, he was stalking me.¬† He repeatedly broke into my home and ransacked it.¬† He cut my phone lines.¬† He threatened my son’s life.¬† I called police numerous times.¬† He was arrested outside my home in February 1998 at approximately 3am with a loaded 9mm pistol and stun gun.¬† An emergency protective order was issued to me then that wasn’t enforced.¬† In March 1998, a warrant was issued for his arrest after he failed to appear in court on a gun charge stemming from his arrest outside my home.¬† Twice in early April 1998, police didn’t enforce the warrant for his arrest and instead took me to a mental hospital where staff treated me like I was imagining someone was trying to harm me and I fled once.¬† He said he had police take me to a mental hospital because he thought a stay there would teach me that he was the only person who cared about me.¬† On April 26, 1998, he showed up at the mental hospital with balloons and a new car he said was my birthday present.¬† When I still refused to get back together with him, he became hostile and threatened me, prompting an employee to intervene before he left enraged.¬† The next day, I was released into a drug treatment program, but left in fear of what he might do to my son if he couldn’t get to me or what he might do to my home.¬† I returned to my home to find he’d already broken in and ransacked it.¬† I didn’t call police because I was scared they wouldn’t arrest him and it would only make him angrier.¬† I tried unsuccessfully to get help from friends. I was traumatized and overwhelmed.

He told me previously if I would just talk to him, he wouldn’t come to my home.¬† So, in the early morning hours of April 28, 1998, rather than wait in terror for him to show up at my home again, I went to his house hoping to make peace with him.¬† He was glad to see me when I arrived, but became angry when I continued to refuse to get back together with him.¬† He forced me into his bedroom at gunpoint then brutally beat and raped me and tried to break my neck.¬† I was later able to get his small 22-caliber pistol and hide it in a pocket.¬† When he saw his gun was missing, he became enraged and handcuffed my hands together in front.¬† He said he was going to rape me “up the ass” and kill me.¬† Frantic, I managed to reach the gun.¬† He lunged at me and was about to grab the gun when I shot him.¬† I heard his voice and it startled me, and I instinctively continued to fire until the gun was empty in a matter of seconds.¬† It was not a conscious choice to keep firing. I was in shock. I removed the handcuffs with hand sanitizer.¬† The phone rang. I answered it and told the caller what happened. She called police, and I let them in.

Prosecutors offered me a manslaughter plea deal with a 20-year sentence.¬† In addition to Judge Eagan’s testimony and the tape of Terry admitting that he choked, beat, and raped me not being presented at trial, the outstanding warrant for Terry’s arrest and my negative urinalysis from the day of the shooting were also not presented. The jury was not given the option of convicting me of any offense less than first-degree murder.

I was a young single mom when I met Terry Carlton over half my lifetime ago.¬† Naturally, I regret so many things I did back then out of inexperience, weakness, trauma, and desperation.¬† I made mistakes that hurt other people, and I’m truly sorry for that.¬† I had never been in a violent intimate relationship before.¬† What’s more, I had no domestic violence education or training, something I now believe everyone should have starting in elementary school.¬† As the old adage goes, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”¬† I had never even heard of Battered Woman Syndrome and was utterly ignorant about the devastating psychological effects of intimate partner violence and abuse.¬† Unfortunately, I learned the hard way: with a fist in my face and my face to the floor.¬† I know things would have been different if I had been following God.

What would the wiser old lady I am today say to the foolish young woman I was back then?¬† God is real.¬† Love and seek God first, and don’t date any man who doesn’t do the same.¬† Surround yourself with people who love the Lord.¬† It’s okay to be single.¬† If a man seems too good to be true, he probably is.¬† Don’t rush in.¬† Take plenty of time to get to know him.¬† The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.¬† Don’t put up with abuse even once.¬† It won’t stop.¬† It won’t get better.¬† It only gets worse.¬† You don’t deserve to be abused.¬† Think better of yourself.¬† Love yourself.¬† Love others as yourself.¬† Don’t use drugs.¬† Drugs only make things worse.¬† Money can’t buy love, peace, happiness, safety, or security.¬† God is your source for everything.¬† Don’t put your trust in man or money.¬† Trust God.

My parents have both died since I’ve been in prison: my mom in 2020 and my dad in 2017.¬† My son is now 31, and having his mom in prison has been extremely hard on him.¬† He once said in a letter to the parole board that our separation hurt and it never went away.¬† It still hurts and he wants me home.¬† I have a three year-old granddaughter now, too, and want to be there for her and my son both.¬† My niece and sister also miss me and want me home.¬† I miss my family so much and pray God puts it in your heart to let me go home to them now.¬† My family along with Project Commutation, RLPM, and His House Outreach Ministry (“HHOM”) are all eager to help me successfully transition back into society.¬† I plan to work at She Brews Coffee House and live at an HHOM transitional home initially when released.¬† Who better to learn the ropes from than Rhonda Bear?¬† Before incarceration, I was a board-certified prosthetist.¬† It’s still a dream of mine to work as a medical missionary in underprivileged places where my skills are desperately needed.¬† To that end, I also plan to take prosthetics refresher classes and ultimately return to work in the prosthetics field.¬† I will continue to advocate for incarcerated women and abuse victims.¬† I also want to educate our youth about domestic violence and help them keep from making the same mistakes I did.

Please give me a second chance at life.




April Wilkens

ODOC #282399


You can read the Timeline of events for April’s case, with supporting documents hyperlinked here.

What April Wilkens sent to the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board for her Jacket