Friday, March 10, 2006

Women In Prison Increase Because Of Meth


South Dakota - A new report from the Department of Corrections finds the women inmate population at an all-time high in South Dakota and a circuit court judge says he knows why.

The 389 women locked up right now accounts for 20% more than last year and more than double the number nine years ago when the women's prison in Pierre opened.

The women's prison is so full that 43 inmates recently had to be moved into dorms at the old Law Enforcement Training Center in Pierre.

Second Circuit Judge Peter Lieberman blames the increase almost solely on meth use. He says on any given day, up to 40% of his work is dealing with suspects accused of crimes involving meth — many of them women.

Lieberman doesn't need a list of statistics to tell him more women than ever are going to prison.

“Many of the people I see are someplace between beginning and the point where they look like the living dead,” he says.

If you take a five-day week, Lieberman says he'd spend two of those days just dealing with meth problems — problem affecting more than just men.

“It seems to be a drug that appeals across gender lines,” Lieberman says. “People with money. People without money.”

As a result, more women are being prosecuted. And more women are being sentenced to prison.

“I'm not surprised that we're out of facilities, because we weren't prepared,” Lieberman says. “How could we be prepared?”

But Lieberman prefers to keep first-time meth users out of the prison system, and give those women jail time and treatment instead.

“The problem is most of the treatment programs are day programs, which means they go home at night,” he says. “And that means they have the temptation of sticking a needle in their arm.”

But Lieberman believes the problem will continue to get worse until South Dakota establishes more long-term treatment programs specifically for meth.

“As my mom would say, it's penny-wise and pound foolish to not have a long-term treatment facility for methamphetamine,” Lieberman says. “It's expensive to have that facility. It's far worse for the community not to have it.”

Women prisoners are growing at three-times the rate of men. Locally, women on work-release are held at the Minnehaha County Corrections Center and the Glory House in Sioux Falls.


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