'I will die' without it: Hamilton County jail offers addicted inmates meds behind bars


The "dope boys" hang out near the jail awaiting newly freed inmates with addiction. They'll hand you a free sample to get you back. Triggers to use drugs again – the corners where you've used, for one – are all around, and any plans for a fresh start easily evaporate.

"In here, it’s black and white," said Ashley Pels, a Hamilton County jail inmate, looking around the recovery pod for women. Get released, she said, and "it’s like 'The Wizard of Oz.'”

The opioid receptors in her brain just "light up," she said, and her cravings roar back.

There's a big chance of relapse after release, and some who do will die. If they survive, three of four ex-inmates like Pels will end up returning to their addiction – and potentially returning to the crimes they committed to support their addiction.

It's a vicious cycle for the addicted and their families, one that has safety, financial and other consequences for the rest of society. But since May, health care providers at the Hamilton County jail have been using medicine to help break the connection.