Last month, Etowah County in Alabama was exposed for putting pregnant women and women who'd just given birth in jail if they were charged with a crime. Thus far, ten women have been put in jail in the past three months and their lawyers took it to court on the grounds that it was unconstitutional, reported AL.com. That is finally changing, however.
One of the women, Ashley Banks, was charged with possession of marijuana and confessed to smoking cannabis two days earlier. She was immediately charged with "chemical endangerment of a child" and told she would only be allowed out of jail if she entered a drug rehabilitation facility and paid $10,000. She's not a drug addict, however, so no rehab center would accept her unless she lied that she was addicted to something. She has been evaluated twice.
Her family was able to raise the money for her bail, but she was denied because she had to go to rehab. While pregnant, she was forced to sleep on the floor and starved for three months before she could finally be let out, said National Advocates for Pregnant Women (NAPW).
Another mother, who'd just given birth to her second child, tested positive for antihistamine and was put in jail for being an alleged meth addict while her newborn was still in the hospital.
After the lawsuits, pregnancy advocate groups and international attention, Etowah County has finally decided that perhaps it wasn't the best move.
Lawyers working with NAPW filed habeas petitions fighting the bail conditions and they were finally reduced to $2,500 and the rehab requirement removed. They're still making the women pay for pretrial monitoring, including drug tests every 48 to 72 hours.
NAPW staff lawyer Emma Roth, told AL.com that she hopes it will mean fewer pregnant women or postpartum women are thrown in jail.
“This is a really significant victory and a huge step forward,” Roth said, “But it is not until the statute is amended or repealed that we can say that pregnancy and substance abuse will not be criminalized, but treated as a public health issue.”
Read the full report at AL.com.