The Women of Block 12 rarely discuss their criminal cases but they readily admit to their addictions and the shame of being incarcerated. Over the past 7 years, I have learned the following:
- The women grieve the things they have lost as a result of their choices - jobs, homes, family ties, reputations, the right to care for their children.
- For many this is not their first arrest but just one stop in a seemingly endless cycle of substance abuse and incarceration. Their drugs of choice include alcohol, cocaine, methamphetamines, heroin, and others.
- Many are mentally ill and take drugs to self-medicate.
- They feel helpless to change their circumstances.
- Most are non-violent offenders incarcerated for crimes related to their addiction.
- According to the Department of Justice, the Women of Block 12 belong to a growing population of over one million non-violent offenders incarcerated in prisons and jail across the United States. These offenses involve neither harm, nor threat of harm, to a victim.
- Offenders, such as these women, are hopelessly entangled in "the war on drugs" a flawed system of beliefs and policies that has failed to solve the problem of their criminal activities.
- There can be no end to the cycle of addiction and incarceration until we see clear to separate those who have social and medical needs from those who are violent offenders.