Worst State for Women
Another Oklahoma Criminalized Survivor Story:
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 OklahomaIncarceration 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.
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’s 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 DA. In the span of a year, every single member of the board has changed, except for Larry Morris – April’s only YES vote this time around. He’s 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). What is more, 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.