Opioid crisis putting more women behind bars in the US

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Women now make up the fastest growing incarcerated population, mostly because of the growing opioid crisis. (KABC)

It's a sobering statistic; women now make up the fastest growing incarcerated population.

Many point to addiction, especially to opioids, as the biggest factor driving up the rate of women being arrested and put in jail.

So many families split apart, so many mothers now behind bars.

Like Krystle Sweat, of Jacksboro, Tennessee.

Sweat has been in and out of jail for years, arrested for thefts, robberies and driving violations.

All of them related to her opioid drug habit. At one point, she was taking up to 300 pain pills a day.

Her son, Robby Wilson, is 10 years old.

He said, "She's been to jail multiple times, but how long was this one? Two years."

Robby, who lives with Krystle's parents, hasn't been able to hug his mom since Christmas Day, 2015.

He's a regular visitor and tries to keep her up on what he's doing.

Krystle's parents say she was a good kid who was a cheerleader and sang in church.

Her son says Krystle used to also sing ballads and country music, something she still does to pass the time, entertaining her fellow inmates.

She explains how she got caught up in the cycle of addiction.

"It just became.... I started getting in with the wrong crowds and was getting introduced to more things," Krystle said. "When I was introduced to opiates that was it for me. I became addicted very quickly."

The small county jail in Campbell County, Tennessee where Krystle is incarcerated offers a glimpse into the tidal wave of opioid abuse that has ravaged the country.

While it's been very tough on the family, Krystle's father is grateful his daughter is OK.

Eddy Sweat said, "I'll be honest. When she went in jail, I actually felt relieved because I knew where she was at. I knew I wasn't going to get that call at 1:00 in the morning saying that Krystle died of a drug overdose."

But without treatment or any kind of program based help, the cycle will continue.

Sergeant Campbell, who oversees female inmates, said, "When we don't fix that problem and we just let them back out with the same amount of education, we've done nothing to give them a leg up. They're going to go right back to their problem, right back to their drug addiction and they're going to be breaking into your house, they're going to be stealing your vehicles and they are going to be dropping dirty needles at your kids' park."

Nazgol Ghandnoosh, who is with The Sentencing Project, agrees.

"Really we cannot have any conversation about how to address the opioid crisis unless we begin with getting everybody access to treatment who needs treatment," Ghandnoosh said.

Krystle has dropped out of drug rehab programs before, but insists that this time is different.

She says she hopes to enter a faith-based recovery program, when she's paroled.

And she hopes her son Robby understands one day.

"I hope that he can see it as a lesson for himself that he will never stray down this path," she said.

Krystle's pledged to stay off Facebook and give up her mobile phone to avoid old connections.

Her son, Robby, already has plans for when she's released.

He wants to show her how he can ride no-hands on his bike and "catch her up on everything she's missed."
Related Topics:
opioidsdrug addictionjail
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