South Dakota Women's Prison group fights meth addiction

In this May 24 photo inmates wave sage smoke over themselves while smudging the room to cleanse the space and remove negative influence before the anti-meth rally, Sober is Sacred, at the South Dakota Women's Prison in Pierre. (Erin Bormett/The Argus Leader via AP)

PIERRE (AP) – A Native American woman is bringing attention to the impact of methamphetamine addiction from within the South Dakota Women's Prison.

Heather Shooter, 37, started the support group Sober is Sacred to encourage other inmates to join the fight to demand more drug treatment services at the Pierre facility, the Argus Leader reported. Within the last year, the group has put on two anti-meth rallies at the women's prison, where many inmates share stories about how the drug derailed their lives.

About 64% of women in the prison are incarcerated on a primary drug charge, most of which involved meth.

Shooter has been in prison since April 2017 for participating in a high-speed police chase with her 6-year-old in the car while high on meth.

"That was my wake-up call," she said. "This is my chance to change."

Shooter, a member of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, grew up in Rapid City, spending a few years moving around the country before settling back in her hometown. She said she started drinking and taking drugs as a teenager, and meth was available wherever she went.

Two of her friends were killed because of the drug, she said.

"You'd think the thought of having children would make me want to stop, but it didn't," Shooter said. "I couldn't quit. I thought it would be easier to die."

Shooter found the will to face her addiction after a Pennington County judge ordered her to get treatment as part of her sentence.

"They needed to take me out of the world to really open my eyes," Shooter said.

After six months in prison, Shooter began identifying toxic relationships in her life and joined a Christian intervention program that uses spirituality to combat addiction. Her progress led her to form Sober is Sacred.

"People think they need a tragedy to change," she said. "It shouldn't take a tragedy to want to be sober."

Shooter will be released this month. She wants to seek treatment at the Rapid City substance abuse center, Full Circle, and hopes to spend time with her son, who's now 9 years old.

She plans to spread Sober is Sacred's message when she gets out.


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