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tv   America Tonight  Al Jazeera  March 31, 2015 10:00pm-10:31pm EDT

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next. i'll see you again in an hour. [ ♪♪ ] on "america tonight" ... >> i didn't trust anyone i didn't believe that i could be any more than a homeless little black girl. >> three years of childhood were spent in motels a place she left behind because of unique private school that changed her life. >> they see that you don't have to just be that little girl that lives, you know next to an
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abandoned house. >> women can be charged with aggravated assault against their babies for using drugs during pregnancy. shannon has been clean and sober for three years. she struggled hard. in one of those struggles, after the birth of her daughter shannon relapsed and found she was pregnant. >> immediately i was terrified. i knew what kind of a fight i had against me thanks for joining us. i'm joie chen. tonight we look at tough lives and life lessons. millions struggle with substance abuse, and for them a pregnancy can make a chaotic life complicated. faced with a sky rocket formed some states are taking harsh measures against the mothers. north carolina are poised to pass laws that would gaol addicted woman addicted to
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drugs. the impact of criminalizing pregnancy - we look at that. >> i've been on both ends of this. i've been the pregnant add ict, and the daughter of an addict. >> reporter: shannon nose diction. she fought it every -- knows addiction. she fought it every day for 15 years. >> a normal night in my house at 14 is my mother sleeping standing up because she was on methadone, with a lit cigarette in her hand. the boyfriend locked in the boyfriend doing crack, and he trying to sneak out lookinglike i was 20 years old, with all the make-up and heels. >> reporter: grow up in tennessee, in the chaos of addiction, almost inevitably she became an addict. opiates. alcohol. >> the miracle would have been to not end up that way. it was my breath. like i couldn't breathe without
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it. my existence. >> shannon has been clean and sober for four years, and works full-time and cares for her three lively girls. she struggled hard. and in one of those, after the birth of her eldest daughter shannon relapsed and found she was pregnant. >> immediately i was terrified. i knew what kind of fight i had ahead of me. >> why could you not do drugs? >> the withdrawal symptoms were intensive. there was no way to function be a mum, work and get out of bed. >> shannon's doctor wrote a prescription for more opiates. >> he said you can't stop. if you stop the detox will be harsh. you could miscarry. towards the end of the pregnancy i was so terrified of social services and being born addicted
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and what could happen for her. >> thank you for mummy, thank you for daddy. thank you... >> shannon's daughter was born healthy and drug free. if shannon did the same thing today, using opiates under a doctor's orders she could land in prison. as of july 2014 women in tennessee can be gaoled with charges as severe as aggravated assault against their own babies for using drugs during pregnancy. addicts give birth to newborns dependent on drugs and going through withdrawal symptoms. tennessee leads the country in baby born with ans. alarming lawmakers to pass this law, the first to target pregnant women for drug use. >> we see babies scratching having convulsions. >> reporter: barry is a district
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attorney and is a supporter of the law. >> a lot of attention is on the plight of the mother. what about the plight of the babies >> reporter: why is threatening these women with prison gaol time the right thing. >> it holds women responsible with conduct and hopes it deterse behaviour. >> women can avoid gaol by getting treatment. treatment centers can't or won't treat prg nant addicts. >> this is the women unit right. >> reporter: this is where the few that can, the women's rehab clinic in nashville. there are six beds for pregnant women and 50 state-funded beds. it's a 3-month intensive rehab programme folking on getting women free and born.
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katherine hays got two of the six beds. it was a struggle to get here. >> i was trying to get help. no one would accept me. i was pregnant. they said insurance factors. risk liabilities. how could you not want to help the child inside of me. >> we are seen as a liability, an issue they can't handle. and i feel that that is heart-breaking. >> do you know that when you call up treatment centers, programs one of the questions that you are asking is are you pregnant or could you be pregnant. in almost every center a positive answer will screen you out of the programme. they will not take you. >> there's plenty of other programme. what i'm telling you is when we go through the chilled protective investigative meetings we'll find programs to
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put the women in. >> reporter: if there are programs it's hard for women to access them. according to the latest figures for the department of health and human services 129 women in the state received addiction treatment. that year nearly 1,000 babies were born with drug dependency. they are required to go through detox. for a woman on opiates, it could harm the baby or cause miscarriage. state legislators made clear they have little regard for difficulties addicts or pregnant women face. here is terry weaver as they introduce the legislation. >> these ladies are the worst of the worst, not thinking about prenatal care. i want to emphasise what they are thinking about.
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that is money for the next high. >> they are not using a tool or strategy. dr ron barry is a psychiatrist in charge of treatment at the college. along with a dozen major medical associations. he warns the law will discourage women from seeking treatment. from fear of gaol time. >> he'll have a decrease of the interest and willingness of future patients who may have a problem to seek treatment. >> you are afraid. thinking you are a doctor. it will be the law enforce. arm. >> decades of research led the medical community to define the i diction. >> in tennessee. state law makers and officers reject that view. >> people say addiction is an illness. it's a different kind. it's not like cancer. i canned go into the programme
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and get rid of it. people that are alcoholics can drink. a big aspect is having a problem, getting help. >> reporter: why single out women and pregnant women. >> what you are forgetting is the consequences and that woman has a choice they never had. it's an effort to get into programs alleviate the problem. >> sheila macvicar with us. it seems there's a lot of challenges for the programme in tennessee, yet others are following suit. >> not only are there challenges there has been no increase to treatment beds available to pregnant women who have an opiate problem. one result of that has been that many women not wanting to confront the law have been moving into western north carolina. north carolina says oh we need to do what tennessee did, and enact an identical law.
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they reference the law when discussing this. north carolina is about to criminalize women who are pregnant. and women that have an opiate addiction, without providing treatment for pregnant women. >> there's no acknowledgment that there has to be something, funding for beds. it seems impossible. >> we are talking about 1,000 babies born in tennessee, that showed symptoms of neo-n.a.t.o. addiction syndrome. we are talking about a small number of beds maybe 126 got help. there's no additional money, there's a view that in the minds of the legislature, these women are committing a crime against their babies and they need to be punished. they do not view it as a medical issue, what the doctors tell you, addiction is a medical
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issue. >> that leaves the babies for those that say this will help the children it leaves them in the lump. >> it leaves them in the lurch in as if the mother is sentenced to prison. legislatures will say they should have thought of that beforehand. it is a simplistic view of addiction. it fails to understand that women do not plan pregnancies. when they get pregnant and use opiates doctors say you cannot go off opiates. it's dangerous. it can lead to problems for the mother. lead to more problems for an unborn baby. and by not increasing treatment beds that are available to pregnant women, they are not helping them get off the drugs and help their babies have a better future next - drugged up on doctor's orders. an "america tonight" investigation taking us inside a v.a. hospital. what lawmakers want to know now
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about the overdosing of patients. later - learning lessons, a corporate investment in schooling students for success. >> and hot on "america tonight"s website now, an education in windy city politics. chicago's mayor taking a tough line closing dozens of schools across the city. now in the fight for his political life will it cost him his job. final out on m/americatonight.
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in our fast-forward segment doped up the veterans administration has been under fire for mismanagement and mistreatment of our vets at facilities across the country. "america tonight" christopher putzel vetted the case of a young -- investigated the case of a young marine whose death exposed other flaws in the system. >> we wept in his room he was cleaning with his hand on his
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side on his head. i said "jason what's the matter?" he said - i said "jason i can't understand you" i went to the nurse's statement and said what's wrong with him, he can't talk. she said "we gave him medication for the mying rain he'll be all right in a couple of hours." >> reporter: a view hours later he stopped breathing. efforts to revive him failed. his death was caused by an aneurysm. a state autopsy revealed something different. mixed drug toxicity. every one is a medication that the v.a. prescribed to him. >> reporter: a witness to his last day was christian, a former v.a. housekeeper, speaking out about what she saw. >> i remember seeing him sit up in bed. he seemed fine he was mumbling. i didn't think anything of it. he was on a ward where people don't die.
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in on outward. >> reporter: the death of jason and a subsequent report by the center for investigative reporting set off a firestorm. in january bob mcdonald secretary of veteran affairs announced an overview. including accusations of retaliatory behaviour. at the heart of many allegations the chief of staff, psychiatrist dr david huli han. >> a lot of the patients were walking around like zombies. i can't understand why there were so many patients in their bed all day long >> reporter: people knew to go there to get meds. >> i heard that huli han was giving the stuff out like candy
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fast-forward. in the wake of our investigation and others. members of congress made a trip from corey washington to wisconsin, to hear from jason's family along with the whistleblowers. the v.a. apologised to the families and workers who spoke up. next here - buying in. an education and beating the odds for kids in one of america's toughest cities. >> who is paying for this. >> corporate america. >> yes. >> putting inner city baltimore kids through school. wednesday - lessons from history, the quiet saem stress and mighty words. we find them in rosa park's letters. wednesday on "america tonight".
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we know education can make the difference in a young person's life. what does it take to get kids the lessons they need? sometimes it is money. and the willingness to invest in the future because each with high school graduation rates in this country at a high more than 80%. low income minority students are left behind. a solution - and a concern about it from "america tonight"s adam may. >> i didn't trust anyone i didn't belief that i could be any more than a homeless little black girl. >> reporter: three girls of this girl's childhood were sent in motels. stability non-existent education a real challenge. >> i came through school angry. i really did. i was very angry. it takes you to a different
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place. >> reporter: a place she left behind because of a private school that changed her life. they see past circumstances, and see that you don't have to just be that little girl that lives you know next to an abandoned house, the little boy who is in his life. you can be so much more. >> baits graduated from crystal ray and baltimore maryland. part of a network of 28 small private jesuit high schools. the vast majority of their students live in poverty. >> what are you looking for? >> a student who wants to achieve, and has agreements in school systems, who are dragging the kids along. >> if you believe you can achieve something, you have everything in the building.
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if you come along for the ride. we invite you. he tells glass sizes distribute discipline. >> you'll be using the homework for the class assignment. >> reporter: and a focused learning environment. a demanding school. you may wonder how do families afford the tuition. who is paying for this? >> corporate america. >> reporter: corporate america is putting inner city baltimore kids though school. >> they have invested in our student. >> reporter: almost 100 donors, including almost every company has jumped on board the programme. what do they get out of this? >> these are the young people that will be turned loose in the world, the young people that will change the culture, society. why not be a part of that.
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why not participate in it. i think that's what corporate america gets. >> besides money, the companies donate a long-term corporate internship. a part of the programme that sets it apart interest public schools, and opens the eyes of opportunities. to a world beyond the one they grew up in. >> reporter: gilbert is a junior. his family refugees from the democratic republic of congo. now, he's working one day a week at a major downtown hospital. >> i work at a medical center. >> reporter: you want to go into medicine some day? >> yes, of course. >> reporter: this is valuable experience. >> yes, it is. >> what do you do there? >> i work in the physical therapy department. i work with patients. i help fiscal therapists help the patients. >> how many 16-year-olds do you know that are working in a
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hospital dealing with patients? >> few of them. the kids work side by side with someone they never thought they'd work side by side with. it changes their perspective, the vision. so these kids grow. >> does it almost raise the level of their dreams and aspirations? >> without a doubt. when you send them to a corporate 500 place, and they are around professionals. and had a conversation. when i went to a university of this and a university of na and what was that like the kids dream big and believe that they can go there. >> wykera baits is now a college senior crystal ray's proudest achievement is the 100% of students that finish their programme, attend college. it's higher than the national rate of 66%.
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>> as i get older, i realise it was worth it. they started out a work ethic in us, as soon as we started in nineth grade. my friends in public school have a different mindset. the majority are not in college. a lot of friends that graduated are doing amazing things such as travelling cross the world. we have people in the military we have people that have started families and are still in college, and about to graduate in may. >> there's a snag in the success story. not everywhere at crystal ray makes it. in fact the school's graduation rate is 74%. almost identical to the baltimore city school system. in other words, one in four students who enroll here will not finish. >> it's not for the masses. i don't think it's realistic. >> monique is a radio show host and legal analyst who says
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crystal ray is not the answer for many students. and that the school is skimming the best and most motivated students out of the public school system. >> here is what's. you take the best and the brightest student. you put them into private schools, and then the public school system is left to handle the masses. where you normally would have students who have a great shot at entering college and matriculating through the public school system and have parents invested in not just their own students their own child's education, but also investing into the public schools in their area, you lose the involvement. >> presley says schools like crystal ray offers opportunity, the corporate money could be better spent - improving the public school system for all
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students. >> i think that there needs to be a way for corporations to invest in the educational system across the board. >> before joining crystal ray, most of his career was spent in public schools. >> reporter: if you had the power... >> okay >> reporter:..would you make this available to every student in the city? >> if i had the power for every - wow. excuse me. oh, my goodness. here is why i get emotional about this. not every student wants this. and it would there are kids that
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want change. thank you. there are kids who want better. so those kids that truly want better i would give them the opportunity and share the possibilities and opportunity, but you have to come along for the ride. we are not going to drag you. >> hurts you to think not every student can be involved. >> god it hurts. the easy thing is to say yes. i understand there are some children willing to work and put the time in. we live in a society where there's others who are constantly trying to hurt those that want to achieve. >> reporter: nadine says too many children don't realise they are short changing their future. gilbert is not one of those students. top of his class, different to
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many kids in his neighbourhood attending public schools. >> they are in the street riding bikes day and night. going home late. dragging their pants. drugs. i stay away from that. i know that that is not going to benefit me at all. >> are you the kid sitting in the house studying why this happens outside your door? >> most of the time yes. >> how happy are you that that is your life decision? >> very hope. >> a year away from graduation gilbert is selecting a college. he credits the doors crystal ray opened for him making the most of it. that's "america tonight". tell us what you think at talk to us on twitter and
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facebook, and come back. we'll have more of "america tonight" tomorrow. >> born in the usa but miles away from the american dream. half a million children, u.s. citizens are legally caught between two countries and fighting to survive in lawless areas of mexico. >> it is a dangerous dangerous area. just driving around this area makes a little nervous because kidnap something right here. it also has the highest murder rates in the entire country. >> a generation of american kids lost in america. i'm