Addicted and incarcerated: An inmate opens up about her need for treatment

MCCRACKEN COUNTY, KY — There is a 1 in 4 chance that drug abusers who are imprisoned will return after being released, according to the National Institutes of Health.

“I don’t want to be a statistic,” said Ashleigh Chessor. She is an addict currently in jail for several drug charges and burglary.

It isn’t her first go-round. She said she needs more treatment.

An NIH study found only 7% of local inmates and 15% of state inmates actually get treatment in jail or prison.

“I’ve been in here for about three weeks now,” Chessor said.

Chessor, 22, is in the McCracken County Jail, where she’s waiting to make bail on a list of charges.

“I want it more than anything,” she said. She’s not talking about the drugs. Chessor said she wants to be clean.

She was when she was interviewed for a story in 2017 on how jail doesn’t help addicts.

In 2017, she said “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”.

“I did all of that,” Chessor said when we talked to her again for this story. “I got out of Ladies Living Free. I got my own apartment, signed back up for college, and I got full custody of my daughter back. When I left Ladies Living Free, I got into an abusive relationship and that it was ultimately led me to my relapse.”

“I can’t really blame anyone else for me using again because it was my choice,” she said.

She has been in and out of jail for about seven years, but she’s not alone. It’s called recidivism. An estimated 68% of released inmates were arrested within three years. The relapse rate for people treated for substance abuse is between 40% and 60%.

This time, a loved one took action for her.

Chessor’s preliminary hearing

At a preliminary hearing on Tuesday, Deputy Trent Hardin spoke about the night he arrested Chessor. “Chessor’s fiance stated that he needed my assistance. Stated that Mrs. Chessor was on drugs. He said her saw her place some syringes in a blue bag in the vehicle. He said he was concerned for her, he loved her, and said she needed to get the help she needed.”

That help may not come in jail.

“I know people are like ‘she said this 1 million times before,’ but there is a certain point in your life or reality does hit,” she said. “It’s between life or death.”

She believes she will die if she doesn’t beat her addiction. Chessor tells me she’s been to rehab 23 times. Most of those stays were when she was a teen.

She said she’s only been twice as an adult and plans to go to treatment when she makes bail.

There isn’t a treatment program in the McCracken County Jail. There are classes though that talk about relapse and addiction.

Treatment has been proven to lower recidivism rates. The NIH study found people who got treatment in jail followed by more treatment once released were seven times more likely to be drug free.