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Disparity cited in sentencing for Tennessee female drug defendants

Women across the country sometimes argue with justification that they are unfairly treated versus men in certain contexts.

Studies show, for example, that men routinely receive higher wages for doing jobs that women also do in certain industries.

And now, in Tennessee, there's this: Reportedly, when men and women are convicted on similar opioid drug offenses, it is generally taking far longer for the females to get out of jail for entry into a low-security residential treatment facility.

Why the big difference?

Judges from various areas of the state say that it has to do with numbers.

"The demographics have just flipped on me," says a judge who presides over one of Tennessee's drug courts.

What he means is simply that increasingly more women than in years past are now having challenges with addictive drugs like methamphetamines and prescription painkillers.

And when they are arrested and convicted on a drug charge, there is a long waiting list for the beds in a treatment facility that caters to women.

So, they wait, sometimes for many months ... behind bars. And they do so while males often move through the system at a faster rate.

That's not fair, and it obviously needs changing.

The people who know that, though, are also aware that legislative funding to build new centers and pay for treatment, education, food and other related necessities is also wanted for other programs.

Advocates have a ready response to that. They note that upkeep costs for a person in jail materially exceed those for a participant in a treatment facility.

The bottom line: The faster a person transfers from jail to a treatment center, the more money Tennessee taxpayers save.

And, say judges, time spent in the latter type of facility brings far greater benefits to participants than does jail time.

Persons convicted on drug charges who can secure a place through drug court in a residential treatment center "come out absolutely different human beings," says one judge.

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