Addicts say being in jail didn’t help them overcome

PADUCAH, KY – Two moms are coming home for the holidays, but not from where you’d expect. They look bright, happy and healthy, but they’ve been battling addiction for quite some time.

At Ladies Living Free, a rehab center for women, women are fighting their way out of this cycle of addiction.

The crisp holiday air often brings with it a time for reflection.

“There’s a lot of guilt that comes with (addiction),” Ashleigh Chessor, 20, said. “I know I’ve made a lot of mistakes, and I was really young. I wasn’t thinking about my future and how it could affect me in the long run.”

Drug addiction is what brings women like Chessor to the facility, but the first stop is jail.

Seventy percent of women in jail in Kentucky are incarcerated for non-violent crimes, often drug-related, according to the Kentucky Justice Reinvestment Work Group.

As the year comes to an end, these women are getting to start over. “When I leave here, I plan to get a place of my own, start back up in college, and gain custody back of my daughter,” said Chessor. “She’s 2, and I lost her as a result of drug addiction.”

Kentucky has the fifth highest incarceration rate for women. They said there is more to be done to help women like them then what jail can do.

“You don’t learn your lesson in there. I know that,” said Hayli Hill. “The longer I would sit, I would get mad and want to be out.”

“More women should be offered treatment,” said Chessor. “I think they are so quick to throw them in jail, and they think that them sitting there, they will learn their lesson. But sitting there you don’t really get help for what you are doing it for in the first place.”

The two mothers have plans.

Hill is looking forward to reuniting with her family. “Building up the bridges that I burned while I was in my addiction,” she said. “There’s hope. You can turn your life around.”

Hill and Chessor have one month left of rehab, and then they will get to return home on Dec. 22, just in time for Christmas.

Commonwealth leaders are going to look at that data and come up with policies to help lower these statistics.

The Crime and Justice Institute has been working with commonwealth leaders to analyze Kentucky’s prison system and what is driving the rising prison population. A final report with policy and solution ideas is expected to come out Dec. 18.

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