TN Opioid Crisis Means Long Jail Stays for Women

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One unexpected effect of Tennessee’s opioid epidemic is that women going through drug courts spend more time in jail than men arrested for the same crimes, USA Today Network – Tennessee reports. Taxpayers foot the bill for those longer jail stays. In some cases, women spend six or more months longer in jail than men, waiting for a spot in minimum security residential treatment facilities where addicts convicted of non-violent felonies are often sent by drug court judges as a condition of probation. The inequity in jail stays is a result of an opioid crisis that is ensnaring far more women than drug court judges have seen in the past. “The demographics have just flipped on me,” said Judge Seth Norman, presiding judge of Davidson County Drug Court. “Five years ago we were never full on the female side. Now the waiting list for women is at least six months. If I opened a 100-bed facility for women tomorrow morning, it would be filled by tomorrow night.”

Norman and other drug court judges have been trying for two years to get funding from the legislature to open other facilities. So far, they haven’t succeeded. Jessica Carter, 25, has been in jail for 10 months on a drug charge. “Jail is just wasted time. And the longer I am here, the longer it’s going to take me to finally finish probation and finish the program and get back to trying to live a productive life.” Judge Norman said men who go through his court program typically wait no more than three or four months to arrive at the facility.

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