Under almost every thin mattress in the women's section of the Calhoun County, Al., Jail and taped to almost every white block wall of the crowded cells is a snapshot of a child, says the Anniston (Al.) Star. The photos are a source of pride for women who say they have little else of which to be proud. Two questions are off-limits: “When was the last time you saw her? Does he know you're here?”
Most of the 55 women in the jail are mothers and grandmothers. Conversation revolves around family, men, and cigarettes. In 1998, only about 12-16 women were in the jail at any time. Since then the numbers have more than quadrupled because of increased crystal methamphetamine use among poor white people, a large demographic in the county. Fifty is average now. “Drugs. It's always drugs,” Chief Deputy Matthew Wade said. “They're there because of crystal meth. “In many cases they're women who, with their education and background, probably wouldn't have been arrested otherwise.” The male jail population, 407 this week, has remained steady for 10 years. A new women's wing was built in 2004. When it opened, it was half full. Now it is running at capacity.