More Women on Drug Charges are Filling Jails

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The Campbell County Jail in Jacksboro, Tn., in a remote corner of Appalachia, offers an agonizing glimpse into how the tidal wave of opioids and methamphetamines has ravaged the nation, the Associated Press reports. Addiction is driving skyrocketing rates of incarcerated women, tearing apart families while squeezing communities that lack money, treatment programs and permanent solutions to close the revolving door. More than a decade ago, there were rarely more than 10 women in the jail. Now the total is around 60. Most who end up there were arrested on a drug charge and confined to a cell 23 hours a day. Many of their bunkmates also are addicts. They receive no counseling. Then weeks, months or years later, they’re released into the same community where friends — and in some cases, family — are using drugs. Soon they are again, too. See also: Treat Women Prisoners With Dignity, Texas report says

The cycle begins anew: Another arrest, another booking photo, another pink uniform and off to a cell. Campbell County faces formidable odds. In 2015, it had the third-highest amount of opioids prescribed per person of all U.S. counties. There were enough opioids to medicate every single resident around-the-clock for 15 weeks. Mayor E.L. Morton blames the drug industry and doctors. Two lawsuits against opioid makers are pending on behalf of the county and its 40,000 residents. “If you were fighting the Mafia, you’d be aiming for the head of the organization,” he says. “Well, the top of this organization is fully legal, and we have the most respected profession that is doing it to us.” As much as 90 percent of the crime in a five-county district is connected to drugs. Women are often the culprits. Women in jail are the fastest-growing correctional population. Their numbers rose from 13,258 in 1980 to 102,300 in 2016, with the biggest jump in smaller counties, says the Bureau of Justice Statistics.

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