The first woman to be arrested under Tennessee state law for giving birth to a drug-addicted baby is going to prison. The mother, Jamilliah Falls, originally chose to undergo the court-mandated treatment program.
On Thursday, she decided she’d rather go to jail than get clean. The Memphis CBS affiliate reports that Falls turned herself in to police saying exactly that. Advocates of her case are understandably less-than-enthused.
“Drug addiction is an illness. To try and treat it through the legal system is inappropriate,” said Cherisse Scott, a member of Sister Reach, an advocacy group for struggling and impoverished women in the Memphis area. The group isn’t happy that the terms of a new state law that allows drug-addicted mothers like Falls to opt out of treatment for jail.
Falls initially went to Serenity House for treatment before being transferred to a halfway house and eventually deciding she could take it no longer.
The law was put in place to protect children from being born addicted to drugs. If a newborn tests positive, the hospital has to notify police.
Scott says Falls was forced back into jail because of poverty. She couldn’t find a job and meet the standards at the halfway house, all while trying to learn a new lifestyle away from drugs. She agrees babies need protection, but their moms need help, not handcuffs.
Falls, whose friends say she’s been struggling to get clean for years and didn’t plan to have a baby, reportedly hasn’t seen her child since last July. The child is in the custody of the Department of Child Services.