Republican Kimberly Poore Moser represents Kentucky’s 64th House District,

I’m a fiscal conservative and solutions-minded legislator, registered nurse, and the director of the Office of Drug Control Policy (ODCP) for Northern Kentucky. Because of what I have seen first-hand in each of these roles, I’m a strong advocate for common-sense reforms to our justice system that improve treatment and rehabilitation programming and lower recidivism rates. More importantly, I’m also a mother and a grandmother, and there is a disturbing trend that has me deeply concerned for thousands of children in our community: the fastest growing segment of the prison population is women, and the majority of them are mothers.

Between 1980 and 2015, the number of women in prisons increased more than 744 percent. In 2015, the number of women in Kentucky prisons grew by 25 percent, five times the rate of men. We know the major drivers of this explosion: nearly four in five women behind bars have a substance abuse problem. This mirrors Kentucky statistics that show more than 70 percent of women incarcerated were initially classified with a substance abuse issue. Additionally, according to a Bureau of Justice Statistics study released last month, more than two-thirds of incarcerated women have struggled with mental illness. Like every state in the nation, Kentucky incarcerates more individuals with severe mental illness than it hospitalizes by a ratio of almost 3 to 1.