Opioids land more women behind bars

This lone county jail in a remote corner of Appalachia offers an agonizing glimpse into how the tidal wave of opioids and methamphetamines has ravaged America. Here and in countless other places, 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 Campbell County Jail in northeast Tennessee. Now the population is routinely around 60. Most who end up here have followed a similar path: they’re arrested on a drug-related 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. And the cycle begins anew: Another arrest, another booking photo, another pink uniform and off to a cell to simmer in regret and despair.--By David Goldman/Associated Press
Jessica Morgan, high on methamphetamines and the opioid pain medication Opana, sits in a holding cell after being booked for drug possession at the Campbell County Jail in Jacksboro, Tenn. April 23, 2018. (David Goldman/Associated Press)
Linda Green is arrested on charges of assault on a police officer and disorderly conduct as police attempted to apprehend her son, who was wanted for an outstanding warrant in LaFollette, Tenn., March 14. Green, who has struggled with drug addiction, has been arrested more than 50 times in Campbell County. The opioid crisis is putting more women behind bars across the U.S., tearing apart families and squeezing communities that lack treatment programs and permanent solutions. (David Goldman/Associated Press)
Linda Green cries in her home while awaiting trial after her latest arrest on charges of public intoxication in LaFollette, Tenn. on March 27. “I’ve had a hard life. I’m on the edge. I feel like I’m going to have a nervous breakdown... Sometimes I want to go back on drugs just to numb the pain,” she says. Green has been arrested more than 50 times in Campbell County on a range of charges from drug possession to theft. (David Goldman/Associated Press)
An inmate sits on her bed as fellow inmates in a cell next door exercise by walking laps in the room at the Campbell County Jail in Jacksboro, Tenn. Women in jail are the fastest-growing correctional population in America. Between 1980 and 2009, the arrest rate for drug possession or use tripled for women, while it doubled for men. Opioid abuse has exacerbated the problem. (David Goldman/Associated Press)
Inmate Mary Sammons, 41, foreground, is comforted in the Campbell County Jail on March 28 by cellmate Blanche Ball, 30, days after Sammons learned that her 20-year-old son was murdered in Kentucky. Sammons, who was arrested on drug-related charges, suspects her son’s murder was drug-related. “I always pictured my kids burying me, not me having to bury my children. Young kids are losing their life over bad dope. This is crazy. It’s so not worth it. He was a pretty boy. He was beautiful.” (David Goldman/Associated Press)
Inmate Kristy Stehler tries to call her children from her cell at the Campbell County Jail. To avoid having their loved ones pay the expensive collect call tolls, they’ll make a succession of collect call requests leaving a message the recipient would hear instead of their names. (David Goldman/Associated Press)
An addiction recovery sign stands beside a road in LaFollette, Tenn., April 11. In 2015, Campbell County had the third-highest amount of opioids prescribed per person among all U.S. counties, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Pills, though, aren’t the only problem. With 500 square miles of mountains, thick woods, winding back roads and deep hollows, this county on the Kentucky border has been a prime spot, too, for meth. While homegrown labs are on the wane, a powerful strain of the drug from Mexico has found its way here. (David Goldman/Associated Press)
Inmate Krystle Sweat lays in bed before falling asleep in her cell at the Campbell County Jail in Jacksboro, Tenn., April 23. For years now, she has cycled in and out of jail, arrested more than two dozen times for robbery, driving violations and other crimes - almost all related to her drug addiction that culminated in a $300-a-day pain pill habit. Sweat tried to quit, but nothing has worked. Now she says she’s ready to make the break when she’s paroled again, possibly this summer. “I’m almost 33,” she says. “I don’t want to continue living like this. I want to be someone my family can count on.” (David Goldman/Associated Press)
Robby Wilson, 10, left, talks to his grandfather, Eddy Sweat as he holds photos of Robby as a baby with his parents. Eddy and his wife are raising their grandson while Krystle Sweat is in jail in Jacksboro, Tenn. “Her absence has taken its toll on Robby,” says his grandmother. “Even at his happiest,” she says, “he’s not happy.” (David Goldman/Associated Press)
Robby Wilson plays basketball with his grandparents Cathy, right and Eddy Sweat, who have custody of him in Jacksboro, Tenn. on April 23. Their daughter, Robby’s mother, Krystle Sweat, sits in jail a mile away. Over the years, they’ve paid her rent, bought her cars, and invited her and her boyfriend to share their home. She wound up stealing tools, a computer and camera - anything she could pawn. (David Goldman/Associated Press)
Krystle Sweat reads in her cell at the Campbell County Jail. Here and in countless other places, addiction is driving skyrocketing rates of incarcerated women, tearing apart families while squeezing communities that lack money and treatment programs. (David Goldman/Associated Press)
Robby Wilson plays basketball with his grandfather Eddy Sweat. “Our hopes and dreams that we had for her ... (have) gone from being a successful adult to just getting better,” Eddy Sweat says. “I just want to see her beat this addiction and be able to stay out of trouble.” (David Goldman/Associated Press)
Inmate Danielle Hale uses a sandal to play a modified tennis game with cellmates at the Campbell County Jail. On their one hour outside their cell, they can visit an exercise room, but it has no equipment, so the women improvise. (David Goldman/Associated Press)
Inmate Tara White, 28, second from left, reacts to hearing her cousin was arrested as she watches the local news in her cell at the Campbell County Jail on March 20. Every evening around dinnertime, inmates gather around a small television mounted high on the wall to listen to the police log and obituary notices. It’s often the main source for inmates to find out if anyone they know has been arrested or died from an overdose. (David Goldman/Associated Press)
Eddy Sweat says grace over a family meal at home. “While she was here, it was total hell,” says Eddy of her daughter Krystle. “When she went in jail I actually felt relieved... I knew I wasn’t going to get that call at 1 o’clock in the morning saying that Krystle died of a drug overdose, because I knew that was coming.” (David Goldman/Associated Press)
Linda Green cries as she’s booked into the Campbell County Jail after being arrested on charges of public intoxication, a parole violation, in Jacksboro, Tenn., March 29. Green first got hooked on drugs when she was given Xanax over 20 years ago during a custody battle to keep her kids. She says she used to shoplift to support them. (David Goldman/Associated Press)
Inmate Mary Sammons, right, helps cover Linda Green with a blanket as she lies down in the Campbell County Jail after being arrested on charges of public intoxication. “It was either sell my body or steal from a store and I’m not one to sell my body. I had to do what I had to do,” said Green. “When I had my kids, I stole to support my children. After I lost them I stole to support my drug habit.” (David Goldman/Associated Press)
A correctional officer searches a cell on suspicion that meth was sneaked into the Campbell County Jail on March 28. Many of the inmates are addicts. Of the charges landing women in the county jail, 85-to-90 percent are drug-related. The women 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. (David Goldman/Associated Press)
Inmate Blanche Ball bench presses a bin filled with personal items while exercising at the Campbell County Jail in Jacksboro, Tenn. (David Goldman/Associated Press)
Names are etched in a metal table as inmates play cards in the Campbell County Jail on March 15. Inmates are confined to dormitory-like cells 23 hours a day, where they watch TV, play endless games of cards or pace in silent frustration, counting the days until their release. (David Goldman/Associated Press)
From left, cellmates Elsie Kniffen, 39, Mary Sammons, 41, Blanche Ball, 30 and Sarai Keelean, 35, join hands after a prayer in the Campbell County Jail on March 20. Many of the women say jail should help prepare them for life outside, maybe with a Narcotics Anonymous group, counseling or education programs such as those offered in state prisons. (David Goldman/Associated Press)
Shackles hang on the wall of the Campbell County Jail. Lt. Mallory Campbell, assistant jail administrator, would like to offer college courses or vocational training, she says, because “if they don’t leave here with a skill, they’re going to go back to what they know.” But there isn’t money for programs or staff. (David Goldman)
Samantha Marlow brushes her teeth in a distorted metal mirror in her cell at the Campbell County Jail. on May 8. Medical costs for both male and female inmates have nearly doubled since 2015, to top $1 million in 2017, according to county officials. Hepatitis, infections and dental problems are among the medical issues inmates have encountered. (David Goldman/Associated Press)
Inmate Blanche Ball, 30, performs her rendition of a turtle on its back for cellmates at the Campbell County Jail on March 20. Inmates sleep, shower and eat in the same room. (David Goldman/Associated Press)
Inmate Crystal French, 38, left, is comforted by cellmate Krystle Sweat, 32, at the Campbell County Jail on March 30, after French was denied parole the previous day. She won’t be eligible again for another year. “I got to know the real me again instead of the addicted-to-drugs person. I’d like to be a productive citizen, not an OD statistic, end up dying on drugs,” said French, whose two sons are being raised by her ex-husband. “I am a good person. I know I am. But I want to see that person again.” (David Goldman/Associated Press)
Danny Peters, 61, get his sons Journey, 10, and Chance, 8, background, ready for bed in LaFollette, Tenn. on March 28, as he cares for them while his ex-wife and the boys’ mother, Crystal French, serves time in the Campbell County Jail. “It’s been tough. She was a supermom,” said Peters. “That’s probably when it hurts the most. A mommy’s love is the thing I can’t give them.” (David Goldman/Associated Press)
Personal messages decorate letters from Crystal French which she sent to her children and ex-husband from the Campbell County Jail where she is serving time as they collect at the family home in LaFollette, Tenn. on March 28. (David Goldman/Associated Press)
Danny Peters is embraced by his sons Chance, 8, left, and Journey, 10, whom he cares for as his ex-wife and the boys’ mother, Crystal French, serves time in the Campbell County Jail in LaFollette, Tenn. on March 28. Peters said the kids have become very attached to him since their mom went to jail. “I believe that it has affected them. When she first went to jail, he (Journey) said, ‘daddy it hurts my heart.’” (David Goldman/Associated Press)
Tammy Perry, 53, sits outside the apartment she is staying in after getting released from jail, as a homeless friend is kicked out by the tenant in LaFollette, Tenn. on April 23. “That’s the only thing I would change about my whole life is the first time I did drugs,” said Perry, whose daughter is currently in jail and also is an addict. (David Goldman/Associated Press)
Brenda Albright, 63, stands in her home as the electricity was turned off as she couldn’t pay the bill in Jacksboro, Tenn. on March 29. A former elementary school teacher, she was taking as many as 21 pills a day before the suboxone. She visits her daughter in jail every Saturday at 4 p.m. She hasn’t seen her in person for more than two years. Brenda said she sometimes goes to her daughter’s room just to look at her clothes and jewelry. She blames herself for her daughter’s condition and says everyone in her family does, too. (David Goldman/Associated Press)
Inmate Krystle Sweat blows a kiss to her son Robby during a video conference as he visits her at the Campbell County Jail on March 28. There are no face-to-face visits other than exceptional circumstances. Robby hasn’t hugged or even touched his mother since Christmas Day 2015, just before Sweat wound up back behind bars. He says that on the day she’s released, he wants to show her how he can ride no-hands on his bike. Sweat laughs but knows their reunion must wait. (David Goldman/Associated Press)
Tammy Perry, 53, walks through the street in LaFollette, Tenn., where she is currently staying with an older man after getting out of jail. Perry says she exchanges sex for money or drugs to support her addiction. “I’m scared of a new start,” said Perry when asked if she ever thought about leaving the county where she grew up to start over in different surroundings. “I’m scared of failing. I’m scared of feeling worse than what I was.” (David Goldman/Associated Press)
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