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Mother of drug-addicted infant going to prison

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- Jamillah Falls, the first woman to be arrested under a Tennessee state law for giving birth to a drug-addicted baby, is going to prison.

She opted for the court-mandated treatment program and was in rehab for several months, but she opted for jail instead Thursday.

Falls turned herself in at 201 Poplar, saying she'd rather sit in jail than go through the program. Advocates say that's exactly the problem.

"Drug addiction is an illness. To try and treat it through the legal system is inappropriate," Cherisse Scott said.

Scott is with Sister Reach, an advocacy group for struggling women in Memphis. She's not happy with the aftermath of a new Tennessee state law that charges women for giving birth to drug-addicted babies. Those women get two options: treatment or jail.

Falls opted for a 28-day stint in treatment at the Serenity House, then transitioned to a halfway house. But Thursday, she decided she'd had enough.

"If she's not going to get any care in prison...so what's supposed to happen to her now?" Scott asked.

The law was put in place to protect children from being born addicted to drugs. If a newborn tests positive, the hospital has to notify police.

Scott says Falls was forced back into jail because of poverty. She couldn't find a job and meet the standards at the halfway house, all while trying to learn a new lifestyle away from drugs. She agrees babies need protection, but their moms need help, not handcuffs.

The law went into effect July 1, 2014, and District Attorney General Amy Weirich supported the program.

She told WREG, "Many of these women don't have the resources and a support system to perhaps get the help that they need. The drug court treatment program gives them at help."

But Scott counters that argument, saying, "It's something that satisfied lawmakers, but doesn't support Tennessee families."

Falls has been sentenced to six months in prison for assault, of which she will have to serve 70 percent and will receive 47 days of jail credit.

She was on the run from police for a week after authorities found out she did heroin two days before giving birth to her child on July 5, 2014.

Friends told WREG Falls didn’t plan to get pregnant, and that she’s been struggling with addiction for years.

Falls has reportedly not seen her daughter since July. At last report, the child was in DCS custody.

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