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Heroin use among women leads to overcrowding in Livingston County jail

Thomas Marthinsen

The Livingston County Jail is expanding because of a boom in the female population.

The number of women currently doubles the jail's capacity. Officials attribute the overcrowding to a rise in heroin use and related crimes. The influx comes as quite the change for long-time Sheriff Lieutenant Tom Cremonte. “I can tell you that when I started here twelve years ago we had less than a dozen females in our jail and now we average about 70.”

Yet while the heroin related convictions are alarming, Cremonte says they are not surprising. The problem pervades surrounding counties. “Years ago, you might have had one or two heroin addicts in the jail,” Cremonte explained. “Now that’s one of the major problems in all jails in Southeast Michigan.”

What is more difficult to explain, however, is the specific increase in female users. Before beginning his service to Livingston County, Cremonte was a narcotics officer for the state police. While he can’t say why women are leaning towards heroin as the drug of choice, it’s a common trend that he has identified over his years of work.

“[Heroin] addictions for women are higher than they are for the guys,” Cremonte commented. “When they get involved in opiates – whether prescription opiates or heroin – they seem to focus on that kind of drug use.”

Cremonte says the prison has resources in the form of counselors and rehab programs to help inmates treat addiction, but the ever growing population makes it difficult to keep up. Currently, the prison is in the midst of a $16.7 million expansion to accommodate this problem. It is scheduled for completion next spring.

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