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Women Unshackled: Kim Moser to speak in D.C. on growing female opioid-related incarcerations

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By Vicki Prichard
NKyTribune reporter

Between 1980 and 2014, the number of incarcerated women increased by more than 700 percent, rising from a total of 26,378 in 1980 to 215,332 in 2014, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics.

Last year, the Vera Institute of Justice and The Safety and Justice Challenge co-published a report confirming that the number of women in jail are the fastest growing correction population in the country. Researchers found that trauma, sexual violence, and mental health issues were all contributors to the increase.

On July 18, the Justice Action Network, a bipartisan organization that works to pass sweeping criminal justice reforms, will host Women Unshackled: Policy Solutions to Address the Growth of Female Incarceration. The day-long event is the first national forum of its kind to discuss issues specific to women in the justice system and will take place at the Newseum in Washington, D.C.

Bipartisan leaders involved in the event include, Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA), Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ), Gov. Mary Fallin (R-OK), Rep. Doug Collins (R-GA), Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX) and Rep. Mia Love (R-UT).

Kentucky State Rep.Kim Moser (R-Taylor Mill) will speak at the event, addressing a panel that will address the need for female-focused reentry programs.

KY Rep. Kim Moser

From the impact of the nation’s opioid epidemic, to the long term health impacts of babies born in prison, the once-day discussion will tackle the factors that have led to the explosion of female incarceration rate and the unique challenges women face behind bars, from high rates of sexual abuse to maternal health and lack of women-specific reentry programs, and recidivism.

In the federal system, nearly 60 percent of women are incarcerated because of drug-related offenses. Kentucky has one of the highest female incarceration rates in the country. The Bureau of Justice Statistics ranked Kentucky as the second highest state for female state incarceration rates, trailing Oklahoma. The study found that women in state prisons were more likely than men to be incarcerated for a drug or property offense. Twenty-four percent of female prisoners had been convicted of a drug offense, compared to 15 percent of male prisoners. The growing opioid crisis exacerbates the problem.

Moser says she has witnessed the impact of addiction “first-hand.”

“I have seen first-hand,” says Moser. “Two nephews struggle with the disease of addiction, and the issues that engulf them as they work to reverse the destruction that this has caused their family and themselves.”

Through her work locally with the Northern Kentucky Heroin Impact Response Task Force, Moser says she’s come to know many families in similar situations as well as those who have lost children to addiction.

Gov. Mary Fallin

“I see that this epidemic underlies many of our societal challenges, overloads our criminal justice, health care, and educational systems as well as our work force affecting businesses and economic development,” says Moser. “As the director of Office of Drug Control Policy in Northern Kentucky (ODCP), I am tasked with identifying barriers and finding solutions regionally. As an elected official, I am tasked with balancing responsible use of tax-payer dollars with the longterm health and well-being of our communities.”

Moser sponsored Kentucky House Bill 333 which passed into legislation in the 2017 legislative session and went into effect at the end of June. The legislation sets a three-day limit for opioids prescribed for acute pain.

“The primary purpose of prescription limits is to prevent the creations of newly addicted persons by reducing overexposure and oversupply of opioids in acute care settings, especially to opioid naive patents,” says Moser.

Moser says Kentucky’s increasing female prison population mimics national trends. Since 2007, she says the female prison population grew 25 percent, compared to five percent for males.

“Opioid addiction has struck the Commonwealth, driving reoffenders back into our prison system,” says Moser. “Kentucky Corrections data sows that more than 70 percent of women incarcerated were initially classified with a substance abuse issue. That includes 2,261 women who received a classification of serious abuse.”

Rep. Mia Love

Moser says Kentucky is in the process of implementing a new risk/needs assessment tool for the Department of Corrections which would take into account the specific needs of women, something, she says, the current tool does not account for.

“This is in an effort to improve the kinds of services and programming we can provide for wome, who have different challenges than our male population,” says Moser.

She points to a Kentucky prison demographic snapshot from as recent as June 29, 2017 that shows that of the 3,065 women incarcerated, nearly 73 percent have children, and1,549 have a 12th grade education or GED. Of those women in custody, 899 are serving for a drug crime, 742 property crime, and 699 for other public order crimes such as DUI, escape, disorderly conduct, or court offenses. Violent crimes accounted for 534 of the women currently incarcerated.

A recent study by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, analyzing inpatient data for 44 states and the District of Columbia, placed Kentucky women in the top quarter of states for both opioid-related inpatient care and 99 percent increase for emergency room treatment since 2005. During the first three quarters of 2016, 768 per 100,000 opioid-related inpatient stays were women between 25-44.

Moser sees the Women Unshackled Forum as an opportunity to address impactful change.

“These conversations drive attitudinal changes which are, in turn, driving policy changes like we have seen in the Criminal Justice Reform Act this past session,” says Moser. “This is building programs which support re-entry efforts and sustainable, longterm recovery and maintenance.”

Results from the Vera Report also showed that roughly 80 percent of the women in jails have dependent children, and that fines attached to criminal proceedings have a long-term impact on the financial well-being of those households, and jail time can deepen disadvantages.

Moser says she hopes to tell the panel about a program in Northern Kentucky that features protocols and services for women beyond their incarceration.

Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee

“I would like to share the Campbell County Detention Center model for women which includes a drug treatment protocol and implements a continuum of services which support and continue treatment outside of incarceration, and “wrap around” services that women needs as they re-enter their children’s lives after a life of drugs and the dysfunction that brings,” says Moser.

She says the model can be used anywhere in the U.S.,utilizing existing services and expanding those as needed.

She’ll also speak to the need for a continuum of early intervention drug treatment, including Medically Assisted Treatment as a best practice for the treatment of opiate-use disorders, and ongoing services which provide support and education for the women and their families. Some of those services would include professional medical treatment and behavioral health treatment through outpatient services through the health department and Mental Health of NKY, as well as parenting classes, job training, continuing education, stable housing and case management through the Brighton Center, and community support networks from organizations such as AA, NA, faith-based organizations and peer mentorship.

Moser says it’s “an incredible honor” having been asked to speak alongside a distinguished panel of policy leaders.

Sen. Kamala Harris

“It is thrilling to have the ear of some of the national leaders in an area which has a real impact on real lives, as well as on communities, states, and the nation,” says Moser. “To have an opportunity to stop the cycle for one woman has the potential to save all of her children from repeating the generational cycle of addiction.”

She says women are often the sole support and sole parent of their children and that it’s important to reach them at the critical juncture of relapse, recidivism, and a life of dysfunction for her entire family versus reaching women when you have an opportunity to change the course of her family’s life is huge.

“The positive ripple effects are enormous,” says Moser.

Women Unshackled is sponsored by the Justice Action Network, Google, and the Brennan Center for Justice. Additional panels will include formerly incarcerated women, law enforcement officials, judges, experts, and advocates.

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