Addiction Awareness Scholarship Campaign 2020 Round 2 – My Sister: The Smiling Convict


My Sister: The Smiling Convict

The smiling woman in the photo above is Miranda Michelle McArthur. Outwardly she seems like a happy person whose personality would probably be infectious… and it is. Miranda is currently thirty-seven-years-old, a mother of two, and my sister. The irony of the smiling photo above is that it doesn’t seem to match the news article attached to it. The article that it was attached to describe a woman who put the life of her kids in danger, appropriately titled “Woman arrested in Helena on suspicion of child endangerment.” This wasn’t the first news article that focused on my sister, nor will it be the last.

The first news article that I can remember about Miranda portrays how she chose to bring drug paraphernalia to the courthouse. It was the incident that first sent her to jail. She was simply supposed to appear in court for a traffic violation (more like a DUI, but who is really keeping notes). Upon entering, they searched her purse. The conversation soon turned from my sister’s questionable driving decisions to her decision to bring needles and small amounts of heroin to a court hearing. My favorite news article line detailed how she was dragged, kicking, and screaming towards the courthouse’s jail. She pulled the stereotypical line, “it’s not mine, I swear!” According to my dad, who was in attendance, she wasn’t convincing. It would be a while before she appeared in another news article. In the time between my sister making the news, I realized how broken the system really is. Treatment options were not in place at the local jail where she was held: no counseling, no nothing. At first, I thought that it was because it was a small-town jail. I was wrong. After researching the topic, I came to learn that this is the “norm” for jails and prisons across the country. They don’t allocate funding towards helping the underlying issues that people within the jail and prison system are dealing with. This is partially why we see people like my sister-repeat offenders.

And repeat, she did. After being given the ability to be released for treatment, that would’ve been paid for out of pocket, she ran. She soon relapsed and fell into even more dangerous and illegal habits. Eventually, she was picked up again by the police. This time because there was a warrant out for her arrest based on identity fraud. I guess an addict will really do whatever they can to reach their next fix. Miranda spent a few months in Federal prison until she was released on probation for good behavior and overcrowding, which is another commonality within the flawed system. I think this is again due in part to repeat offenders. Because eventually, Miranda went back to jail.

This time, the headline was “Woman arrested in Helena on suspicion of child endangerment,” which brings us back to the smiling photo of my sister. Miranda had been pulled over due simply for a broken taillight. Things quickly went downhill when the officers decided to search her car (spoiler: they found illicit substances). They then had her take them to the hotel she had been staying at with her boyfriend and their two kids. In the room, they found the two kids playing around with large quantities of various substances. This is labeled as child endangerment, a federal crime. The parents intended to distribute the substances, which is another federal crime. The parents were quickly arrested, and the kids were placed into the foster care system (don’t worry, they are safe with their foster parents-my parents).

A few months later, my sister once again made the news. Due to the lack of counseling help in the prison system, you find inmates who are willing to do anything to get their next fix. They may have gone through their entire withdrawal process, but they still have a craving for whatever substance they were on. That is what happened to my sister. This time, the heading was “Four inmates in Lewis and Clark County jail charged with accountability to rape.” The story that was portrayed to the public was that Miranda and some companions sexually attacked an inmate with hopes of finding substances that they thought she had. Sadly, that’s the actual story. Just very abbreviated.

It has become apparent that the prison system is a vicious cycle that no one ever really leaves. No one in the system seems to get the help they need to recover from their illness because addiction is. An illness. A treatable illness. It seems that the only people who ever get better are those who seek out help or are forced into seeking help before they are placed within the prison system.