Drug Addicted Moms Facing Jail Time
32-year-old, Amanda Kimbrough, an Alabama resident, was arrested at the hospital where she gave birth to her son Timmy, Jr. The baby was her third child. He was born prematurely at 25 weeks and weighed 2 pounds 1 ounce. He lived for only 19 minutes.
The reason his mother has been arrested is because she tested positive for methamphetamine and in Alabama endangering a child, and causing their death due to the use of chemicals and drugs is a Class A felony, carrying a mandatory sentence of 10 years to life.
As a mother, as someone so opposed to the use of drugs, you would think that my immediate response would be to agree, to agree that a mother who in essence killed her baby because of her drug use should go to jail and should pay the price.
But as someone who has grown up in NYC, and has been exposed first hand to what addiction looks like and what it does to a person, I know that the answer, the treatment, is not imprisonment.
The threat of jail time may be cause for alarm to a drug addicted mother further hindering the sense of trust and comfort needed to help a mother wanting to seek treatment and help.
I have seen many people, good people, do bad things due to addiction. There is a place in our society that lacks the ability to feel compassion for anyone who independently makes the choice to use drugs, to drink, to smoke. But the truth is addiction isn’t about choices, or self-control, or abilities to stop. Not without help, and definitely not when it is so far gone that a mother would risk the life of her unborn child for that quick fix.
The state of Alabama and others who choose to follow in this process are not only failing the mothers of these dead or addicted children, they are also failing the community where these problems are rampant. Poverty-stricken communities, white and black, rural and urban, are affected with this plague and just as I believe that jail time isn’t addressing the emotional, psychological problems that many of our low income black males face today, I don’t believe that it will serve to improve the lives, let alone treat the drug addicted mothers since throughout the poorest regions of our country.
It’s difficult for us, as mothers and as a society to see an innocent child die, a life lost due to the reckless behavior of their parents. The death of a child, especially in the hands of or due to the actions of their parents is quite possibly the most unforgivable thing we could see.
However, we must have the ability to look beyond the one child and consider the human who remains – the woman who stands, possibly with more children at home, possibly with more children in the future, and most definitely with her addiction intact.
I am not sure what the economics are behind the 10-year jail sentence of a drug addicted mother versus the treatment and counseling of the same. But something tells me that if numbers are an issue, treatment and counseling would be a less cost-effective way to go, and a better investment of our tax money.
Should the mother go completely unpunished? Is that child who never had a choice not deserving of a voice? I can’t answer no to any of those.
But what I can say no to, without hesitation, is that the answer is not in how Alabama is choosing to address their growing problem.
It’s easier to label mother as “bad” and ignore the real problem they are facing. Their failure to educate themselves and understand the complexities of addiction is their failure overall. Hiding the problem in a jail cell is not a resolution, and it does nothing to protect future children’s lives, or treat the sad life of the mother affected.
In the end it could be that the ethics, morality, and religion from which these laws are based upon are the very things that push for more mothers to remain addicted and more babies to die.