On the eve of my sister's 24th birthday, she sits incarcerated in Estrella Jail, in Maricopa County, Phoenix Arizona. She is one of 16 females in a maximum security unit, sharing a pod with Jodi Arias. While my sister is not a murderer, she is in custody for a probation violation stemming from felony drug charges. My sister has been a heroin addict for the better part of 4 years. She has overdosed and been hospitalized on multiple occasions. She was with her boyfriend when he overdosed and passed away. I have personally known others who try to recover, stay sober for months at a time, only to relapse and be killed by drug addiction. Yes, it's a disease. Heroin, unlike many other drugs, becomes an addiction in the brain, changing the mind's DNA. Cravings during sobriety can last years beyond actual use. Private drug rehabilitation can cost upwards of $30,000. State rehabilitation programs have long waiting lists and have incredible hoops to jump through for acceptance.
She became a max security inmate 2 years ago as a disciplinary action for a behavioral incident. While she has been in and out of jail a few times since, every time she is re-incarcerated, she remains classified as Maximum Security. This status makes her ineligible to participate in the State's ALPHA drug treatment program implemented to help educate and recover drug addicts. To qualify for ALPHA, an inmate must be sentenced to at least six months in jail. They must enter the program voluntarily by submitting a tank order with the jail after the sentencing to be screened for ALPHA. The inmate is placed on a waiting list, and then screened for the program. Criteria for admittance into the ALPHA Program are based upon the inmate’s classification and custody behavior. The inmate cannot have any major disciplinary action resulting in the imposition of disciplinary segregation in the five years preceding placement in ALPHA. Without the eligibility to participate, my sister becomes part of a statistic of people who struggle with addiction, are at risk for continued relapse and often death.
I am demanding the Joe Arpaio and his Sheriff’s office recalibrate the eligibility requirements for the ALPHA drug program to allow more inmates to participate so that they may get the help they need. This way, when they are released back into society, they can become productive members of the community as opposed to having to stay stuck in the justice system for years to come. My sister is beautiful, she is highly intelligent. She always wanted to be a doctor. She has an amazing heart that heroin has taken away. I just want her to have the chance to start over and live again.
**UNLESS someone like you cares a whole awful lot, it's not going to get better, it's not. - Dr. Seuss