Mass Incarceration of Mothers? Tenn. Bill Makes It Easy to Incarcerate Moms

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Dr Samori Swygert discusses Tennessees House Bill 1295 which makes it legal to arrest pregnant moms who abuse drugs.


Tennessee bill will jail drug addicted mothers

by Dr. Samori Swygert

The state of Tennessee has passed House Bill 1295, a bill that criminalizes a mother that uses narcotics during pregnancy. The bill has passed both houses and just needs to be signed into law.

Here’s a quote directly from the bill: “ Criminal Offenses – As introduced, provides that a mother can be prosecuted for an assaultive offense or homicide if she illegally takes a narcotic drug while pregnant and the child is born addicted, is harmed, or dies because of the drug“. – Amends TCA Title 39

I’m torn in two directions of this bill.  I’m completely against a mother using drugs while pregnant and/or breαstfeeding for the obvious reasons of fetal harm.  However, I’m also aware of the power of addiction.  It’s easy for lawmakers and some individuals to tout this bill, but many have never really dealt with true addiction.  I also wonder why treatment and/or rehabilitation is not considered as an option as opposed to incarceration.

Also, what is to be done to mothers that smoke tobacco during pregnancy?  Cigarette smoke is just as detrimental to fetal development, but there is no law that criminalizes pregnant women for smoking cigarettes.

We must also gain a clear itemization of which drugs are considered “narcotics” in Tennessee.  We see the trend in marijuana use.  If marijuana is considered a narcotic like cocaine, crack, heroin, crystal meth, and LSD, there could be a potential problem.  A mother may not use marijuana but individuals in her domestic environment can be heavy users and the possibility of a positive blood test (from second hand smoke, like tobacco) can put her at risk of criminal prosecution.

This bill also feeds into the drug testing business that many states are pushing for. Health care practitioners would be inclined to run a drug screen on every baby born with physical abnormalities.  The child may have a genetic disorder, but because the disorder is present, they would run a drug screen to see if narcotics played a role.

Subsequently, this leads to mass drug testing and a financial boom for the drug testing industry. I discussed the potential financial gains from mass drug testing and how the private equity firm, The Carlyle Group, purchased the blood and drug testing arm of Johnson and Johnson (Ortho-Clinical Diagnostics) for $ 4.15 Billion dollars a few months ago.

I never even considered the money to be made from mandatory drug testing and criminal prosecution of pregnant mothers.

I really am in a bind trying to weigh this bill out.  I really see the humanistic portion in the protection of babies, and the discouragement of drug use, but I also see the financial profiteering of the prison industry and drug testing industry.  Are states crafting legislation to generate penalty based revenue?

What do you think about all this?  Where do you stand? Also, should treatment and rehabilitation be the other option before incarceration?

Click here to read my original drug testing article.



  1. Khalif El'Muhammad

    April 24, 2014 at 12:09 am

    Treatment and rehabilitation should always be the first logical step to corrective action, however, penalty based revenue is part of corporate amerikkka and how it thrives, especially when it comes to educationally and economic challenged people period. This “wicked” countrymen of “inferior white devils” are doing everything we allow them to do to turn the hands of time back the way it uesd to be, why do you keep seeing these slave movies being made, not only to remind us of what life used to be like for us, but what is/forthcoming. These devils stay up all day and night thinking and plotting ways to slowly but surely put us back where they think we belong and they are seemingly succeeding because all I hear or see I s our people cussing/complaining, but doing nothing about these things on a universal level of a united front. It’s gonna take more than pray/fastening to get out of this shit, its gonna take some of that OLD SCHOOL ANCIENT ANCESTRY “ASS-KILLING” AND THIS TIME WHEN WE TAKE BACK THE KINGDOM WE MUST HOLD/CONTROL FOREVER ETERNALLY THROUGH ETERNITY, PERIOD!!!!

  2. Edward Chapman

    April 24, 2014 at 3:36 am

    The South just has to get it in their heads — The LOST that war! Yes, we, us Blacks made the difference, too. When Lincoln signed the Proclamation of Emancipation, he knew exactly what he was doing. North and South had ben fightingfor almost five years, and nobody way winning. When nearly a half-million Blacks got their freedom, most of them did not have the first thought of just staying on the plantation, helping to maintain til Ol’ Massa com home. The figured, collectively, that the South owed them a few licks, for all that bad treatment the experiencd as a slave. Sooooo, those, that could joined the Union Army to get their “Whacks Back! And they were the difference! No, Sir, there never would have been a speech that began, “Four score, adn seven years ago………….”.

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