Sentencing Patterns, the War on Drugs and Women[*]


Randall G. Shelden




Women are the fastest rising group in American prisons.  Driven largely by the drug war, the total number of women offenders somewhere within the criminal justice system (jail, prison, probation, parole) grew by 81 percent between 1990 and 2000, compared to a more modest

45 percent growth for men.  Among those on probation, women offenders jumped by 76 percent compared to only 37 percent for males during this time.  Women in jail rose by 89 percent versus a 48 percent increase for men.  The most gains were seen for women prisoners and

women on parole.  These increases were 108 and 105 percent respectively, compared with increases of 77 and 31 percent for men.[1]


One thing that cannot be overlooked in any analysis of women, crime and criminal justice is the interrelationship between class and race. Indeed, the vast majority of female offenders, especially those who end up in prison, are drawn from the lower class and are racial

minorities.[2] About one-half of the women in prison are black and they are eight times more likely than white women to be incarcerated.  In contrast, around two-thirds of the women on probation are white.  Looking at women’s incarceration as a whole, fully two-thirds are either

African-American or Hispanics. About 11 of every 1,000 women will be in prison at some point in their lives.  For minorities this ratio is even greater: 15 out of every 1,000 Hispanic women and 36 of every 1,000 African-American women will end up in prison at some point in their

lives, compared with only 5 of every 1,000 white women.[3]


The incarceration rate for women remained fairly stable for most of the 20th century, ranging from 6 per 100,000 population in 1925 to 8 in 1975.  After 1975 these rates changed dramatically, doubling to 17 in 1985 and then almost tripling to 45 by 1994, followed by an increase to

62 in 2003. As of June 30, 2008 there were a total of 115,779 women in federal and state prisons (compared to only 8,850 in 1976), constituting 6.9 percent (versus 3.6 percent in 1976) of all prisoners.[4]  These latest figures represent an incredible numerical increase of 1,208%

and an increase of 175% in their proportion of all prisoners during the past 43 years.  Moreover, as indicated in Table 1, the incarceration rate of women increased by 750 percent, compared to an increase of 329 percent for men.[5] 


Not surprisingly, race enters the picture here, as African-American females have an incarceration rate that is almost eight times higher than their white counterparts.[6]  Much of the increase in women’s incarceration rate comes from the impact of mandatory sentencing laws,

passed during the 1980s crackdown on crime.  Under many of these laws, mitigating circumstances (e.g., having children, few or no prior offenses, non-violent offenses) are rarely allowed.  One survey found that just over half (51%) of women in state prisons had none or only one

prior offense, compared to 39 percent of the male prisoners.[7]  It should also be noted that drug convictions account for the bulk of these increases, as has been the case for all prisoners, as I will note below.  What is of critical importance for women offenders is the fact that

more than 80 percent of them have children and in most of these cases the women have sole responsibility to take care of them.[8]


One very poignant story illustrates a serious flaw within the legal system and how it can have a negative impact on children.  The story, as reported in the San Francisco Chronicle, concerns a 10-year-old girl whose mother is in prison and is dying.  The girl wrote to the

sentencing judge “I don’t want my mommy to die in that place by herself.  I want her to come home first so we can hug her and take lots of pictures together.  Will you please let her come home before God takes her to His home? Please?”  The case involved a 51-year-old

woman imprisoned at the Valley State Prison for Women in Chowchilla and who, in late 2003, was given six months to live, as she is suffering from liver cancer and cirrhosis of the liver caused by hepatitis C.  At this time she had 20 months left on a 6-year sentence for – you

guessed it – possession of 6.3 grams of cocaine.  Her only hope of survival was a liver transplant, but she had been denied treatment at the University of California at Davis.  According to the report, no woman had ever been granted permission to obtain an organ transplant. 


Table 1.  Incarceration Rates of Men and Women, State and Federal Institutions, 1925-2008.



Year                             Total                Male                 Female             Ratio



1925                             79                    149                      6                   24.8:1


1935                             113                   217                      8                   27.1:1


1945                             98                    193                      9                   21.4:1


1955                             112                   217                      8                   27.1:1


1965                             108                   213                      8                   26.6:1


1975                             111                   220                      8                   27.5:1


1985                             202                   397                   17                    23.4:1


1994                             389                   753                   45                    16.7:1


2008                             501                   957                   68                    13.9:1



% increase

(1975-85)                       82                     81                     113


(1985-06)                       148                   138                   300


(1975-06)                       351                   329                   750



Source:   Maguire, K. and A. L. Pastore (1995). Sourcebook on Criminal Justice Statistics - 1995. Washington, D.C.: Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, p. 556; West, H. C. and W. J. Sabol (2009). “Prison Inmates at Midyear 2008.” Washington, D.C.:

Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, March, 2009   Accessed on 4/26/09.


The director of the California Department of Corrections broke precedence and granted her an early release under the “compassionate release law.”  But this requires approval from the judge. According to this report, the prospects of getting released were not good.  In the

previous two months two terminally ill women had died in custody, despite having become eligible for compassionate release.  “They died hospitalized and bed ridden, shackled to their beds and guarded 24 hours a day by security officers earning overtime pay.”[9]


One of the problems is the fact that the majority of women are in prisons more than 100 miles from their children, which helps account for infrequent visits.  One survey found that the distance from the prison “accounted for over 43% of the reasons cited by mothers for infrequent

or absent visitation with their children.” [10]


These increases do not match the increases in women's crime as measured by arrests, except if we consider the impact of the “war on drugs” along with greater attention to domestic violence.   During this period of time there has been a very dramatic change in the criminal

justice system's response to female drug use, as it has for all illegal drug use, as well as domestic violence.  In the latter case, such increased attention to domestic violence has led to an increase in arrests of women for both aggravated assault and “other assaults.”[11]  More

specifically, between 1994 and 2003, drug arrests for women increased by 35 percent, compared to a 20 percent increase for men.  In 1994, drug violations constituted just under 8 percent of the total arrests for women (7.9%); in 2003 they were almost 10 percent of the total

(9.5%).  Arrests for “other assaults” went up by 32 percent; these offenses were 8 percent of the total arrests for women in 1994 and 9.5 percent of the total in 2003.  Total arrests for all offenses went up by 12.3 percent during this time.[12]  Of all female offenders sentenced in

federal court in 2002, 39 percent were charged with drug offenses.  Among black women, 46 percent were charged with a drug offense; for Hispanic women the percentage was 44; for white women the percentage was 36.[13]


The Drug War and Women


There is no way we can separate the phenomenal growth in prison populations from the war on drugs, a war that has targeted huge numbers of African-Americans.  While there is little relationship between race and illicit drug use, African-Americans are far more likely to be

arrested and sent to prison.  For women, the poor in general and African-Americans in particular have been singled out.  According to one report, during the 1990s “drug offenders accounted for the largest source of the total growth among female inmates (36 percent) compared

to male inmates (18 percent).”[14]  As of 2004, almost one-third (31.5%) of all women prisoners were convicted of drug offenses; in federal prisons, this figure is 65% as of 2004.[15]  In contrast in 1979 only ten percent of women in state prison were drug offenders.[16]


A study by the Sentencing Project found that between 1986 and 1995, drug offenses account for about one-third of the rise in male prison population but half of the increase in the female prison population. During this period, the number of women incarcerated for drug offenses

soared by 888 percent, while those incarcerated for other crimes went up by a more modest 129 per cent. Data from states where the drug law penalties are especially high reveal an even more dramatic change.  In New York, for instance, under the infamous Rockefeller drug

laws, drugs accounted for an incredible 91 per cent of the increase in women’s prison population; in California, drug offenses accounted for 55 per cent; but in direct contrast, in Minnesota, a state less committed to sentencing drug offenders to prison, drug law violations

accounted for just 26 per cent of the increase.[17] Speaking of California, one report revealed that  whereas in 1980, only 12 percent of women admitted to prison were drug offenders, by 1990 this figure was 47 percent and by 1999 stood at half (50.1%).  This report further noted

that during the past 40 years there has been a 210% increase for women drug offenders, compared to only an187 percent increase for men. Nationwide, between 1974 and 2001 the number of people sent to prison for the first time, largely because of drug offenses.[18]

It should be noted that this is not just the case for women offenders, but for all offenders in recent years.  A report by the Bureau of Justice Statistics noted that  about two-thirds of the growth in the prison population between 1974 and 2001 was because of an increase in the

rate of first-time incarceration, that is, people being sentenced to prison for the first time ever. The report further noted that the percentage of all women ever incarcerated more than doubled from 0.2 percent to0.5 percent.[19]


Much of the increase in women prisoners comes from the impact of mandatory sentencing laws, passed during the 1980s crackdown on crime.  Under many of these laws, mitigating circumstances (e.g., having children, few or no prior offenses, non-violent offenses) are rarely

allowed.  One survey found that in the early 1990s just over half (51%) of women in state prisons had one or only one prior offense, compared to 39 percent of the male prisoners. A survey of California prisons found that during the fiscal year 1998, almost two-thirds (64%) of the

women were first-time non-violent offenders.[20]  Another report noted that between 1986 (when mandatory sentencing was enacted) and 1996, the number of women sentenced to state prison for drug offenses soared ten fold (from about 2,370 to 23,700).[21]


What needs to be underscored is the fact that arrests on drug charges for women reflect their secondary status in the big world of illegal drug dealing.  Figures from the Department of Justice show that women are “overrepresented among low level drug offenders” and are “not

principal figures in criminal organizations or activities.”  Regardless, they nevertheless receive sentences that are similar to “high level” drug offenders.[22]  A detailed study of New York State found that in 1998 a total of 63percent of those sent to prison were convicted of the

lowest level drug offenses, what are called felony classes C-E.[23] A report by Women in Prison Project of New York noted that in that state when the harsh Rockefeller Drug Laws were passed in 1974, only 400 women were in prison and only 100 were in for drugs.  By 2004,

however, around 2,900 women were in prison, with 40 percent in for drugs; almost 87 percent of the women in for drugs were either black or Latina.  Between 1986 and 1995, an incredible 91 percent of the increase in women sent to prison was because of drug law



Another study notes that women most often serve as “mules” (those who carry drugs for the drug cartels and other high level dealers) for boyfriends or lovers, often doing so because of threats to their lives.  One report viewed this situation in the following terms:


Women of color, who act as couriers in the underground, ‘informal’ drug economies, are economically discriminated against, as in the mainstream, formal economies. Just as male counterparts, female couriers are small time players in economy controlled by narco dictators, drug lords and barons, military and intelligence agencies, the police, organized crime, and so on. In a male dominated industry, male couriers are able to realize a greater share of profits, unlike females who are paid a flat rate, tricked or simply coerced into trafficking in drugs. Some drug-dealers have suggested that these women are used as decoys for smugglers on their flight who pass easily through customs with large quantities of cocaine or heroine.[25]


Another report, this one from England, supports the above view, as it reads in part:


        The huge number of Jamaican women coming into Britain with their stomachs full of cocaine is pushing the already overcrowded female prison system to breaking point. More than 10% of the women currently in jail are Jamaican drug mules who swallowed rubber wraps of cocaine and boarded flights to this country. A Guardian investigation has established that the long sentences being served by the 450 Jamaican couriers are stretching resources to the limit while failing to act as a deterrent to the desperate women prepared to smuggle drugs.


        The crisis has deepened since July, when a glut of women prisoners were sentenced before the courts went into summer recess. Women are regularly being bused around as prisons try to find them cells and overcrowding is blamed for the unprecedented number of suicides within female jails: 17 women have taken their own lives since August last year.

        Jamaican drug couriers have been identified as a key factor in the overcrowding problem. At a time when cells are in short supply, the prison service has been forced to dedicate four of the 17 women's jails to housing foreign women.[26]


A recent report by the American Civil Liberties Union notes that women are indeed very small cogs in the illegal drug market, with many getting involved as “a means of supplementing income in the face of unemployment, low-wage and unstable jobs, lack of affordable housing,

and cuts to social programs such as child care, social assistance, and health care.”  In many cases their role is “limited to answering telephones or living in a home used for drug related activities.”  The case of Crissy Taylor is typical, as this report explains:


            Crissy Taylor was incarcerated at the age of 19 based on her marginal involvement in her boyfriend’s scheme to manufacture methamphetamine.  Her boyfriend asked her to go to a store in Mobile, Alabama to pick up a shipment of chemicals.  Based on his assurance that the mere purchase and possession of the chemicals was legal, she went to the store and bought them.  As it happened, agents from the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) were working with the chemical store in a reverse-sting operation.  The agents sold Crissy the chemicals and then arrested both her and her boyfriend, not for possession or purchase of the chemicals – neither of which is in and of itself illegal – but for possession with intent to manufacture methamphetamines.[27]


The ACLU report cites a case study of more than 60,000 federal drug cases by the Minneapolis Star Tribune, which found that “men were more likely than women to offer evidence to prosecutors in exchange for shorter sentences, even if the information placed others, including

the women in their lives, in jeopardy.”  The study found that because women are such minor players in the drug business, they rarely had any useful information for prosecutors.  Whatever information they do have, they are reluctant to divulge it, since doing so might endanger

loved ones.  Thus, they have “less currency with which to bargain their way out of harsh sentences.”[28]


Thus, the recent efforts to “get tough” on crime has had a most negative impact on female offenders, as more and more are finding their way into the nation's prison system.  As a matter of fact, largely because of the war on drugs, the number of new women's prisons has

dramatically increased in recent years.  Whereas between 1940 and the end of the 1960s only 12 new women's prisons were built, in the 1970s a total of 17 were built and 34 new prisons were built in the 1980s.[29]


An Outrageous Example: the “Pregnancy Police”


Perhaps the most outrageous form of judicial sexism comes from the attempt to criminalize pregnant women addicted to drugs, especially crack cocaine.  A study by Siegel, appropriately called “The Pregnancy Police Fight the War On Drugs,” reveals one of the most repressive

sides to the war on drugs.  It was during the height of the war on drugs, in the late 1980s that “crack babies” began to make the headlines.  Over 200 prosecutions were directed toward women as overzealous prosecutors misused the law (stretching the limits of legal reasoning)

against women.   Siegel cites the racial bias in such a crackdown by observing that in Florida in 1989 more than 700 pregnant women in public and private clinics were tested for drugs.  There was virtually no difference by race in the percentage who tested positive (15.4% of the

white women tested positive versus 14.1% of the African-American women), yet African-American women were almost ten times more likely to be reported to the authorities for drug abuse.[30]


One woman in North Carolina was charged with “assault with a deadly weapon” (that “weapon” being crack cocaine) with the “intent to kill her fetus.”  She was sentenced to twenty years in prison!  In another case a woman was charged with “felony child neglect” when her child

tested positive for cocaine.  Fortunately, most women charged were spared the maximum punishments by sympathetic judges, although some were not.


One woman who did not escape punishment was a Florida women who was convicted (her first conviction ever) of “drug trafficking” for “delivering drugs to her infant through the umbilical cord.”  This woman had sought treatment for her cocaine addiction, but could find no program

that would accept her.  After giving birth, with no complications, those attending nurses and doctors said the baby looked and acted perfectly normal.  Routine tests revealed cocaine in her system and the hospital notified authorities, whereupon she was arrested and eventually

convicted, sentenced to one year in jail and 14 years of probation.  In South Carolina a total of 18 women were charged with “criminal neglect” of their fetuses.[31]


According to Siegel, hundreds more women were subjected to civil proceedings seeking to deny them custody of their children.  Not surprisingly, black and poor women have been the most likely targets of such actions.  One study found that in Florida while the proportion of

pregnant women who tested positive for drugs was about the same for both blacks and whites (14% vs. 15% respectively), black women were almost ten times more likely to be officially reported to the authorities.  Part of this reason stems directly from the fact that good

prenatal care is simply not available to poor women and women of color.  Studies have shown that in most hospitals poor women are summarily denied drug treatment if they are pregnant.  This is part of the “blame the user” mentality of the “drug czar” William Bennett who took

over the “war on drugs” during the 1980s. 


The media, as usual, hopped on the bandwagon after discovering the “crack baby” phenomenon.  “News footage of emaciated preemies – sustained by tubes and electronics at staggering cost – sickened viewers all over the country. Here were the fruits of indulgence, the

horrifying issue of women whose moral compasses were so screwed up they had essentially abandoned their babies in the womb.”  So-called “experts said that these babies were “beyond salvation.”  The media erroneously interpreted a statistic from a study by Chicago

pediatrician Ira Chasnoff who, it was reported, said that 10 percent of the women in the hospitals surveyed were on cocaine.  In reality, Chasnoff was simply misquoted, for what he said was that 10 percent of the pregnant women surveyed had “at some time in their lives, used

some kind of drug, which included casual use of marijuana.”[32]


As usual, it became easier to avoid looking at such relevant problems as poverty and racism.  During the entire drug scare propaganda during the 1980s, the so-called "crack baby" became a very convenient symbol.  In time careful research showed that this was more hype than

fact.  For instance, one research study found that less than 2% of all newborns were exposed to cocaine and that such exposure rarely had any effect on the baby's health.  So-called “crack babies” are really “poverty babies.” Siegel concluded that: “Mothers who use crack were

convenient scapegoats for conservative administrations to blame in order to divert the public's attention away from the declining social and economic conditions affecting increasing numbers of Americans.”[33]


A more recent case illustrates the extent of the repressiveness of the drug war.  This is a story about a South Carolina black woman who is serving 12 years in prison for “murder.”  Her “crime” was giving birth to a stillborn child because she took cocaine while pregnant.  While

there is no research evidence that links cocaine use and stillbirth, prosecutors didn’t care.  This woman became the first in the nation to be convicted of murder for using cocaine while pregnant.[34]


As of December, 2003 South Carolina was the only state with a child abuse law that could be applied to “viable fetuses.”  This particular case was appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, which decided not to review it.  The attorney who took the appeal to the Supreme Court was

joined by 27 medical and drug policy groups (e.g., American Public Health Association, American Nurses Association and the American Society of Addictions) who wrote that the prosecution of this case “contradicts the clear weight of available medical evidence, violates

fundamental notions of public health, and undermines the physician-patient relationship.”


This case (Ferguson v. City of Charleston) was also supported by the ACLU, which noted in their brief that: “In the past several years, the state has increasingly intruded into the lives of pregnant women, policing their conduct in the name of protecting fetuses. Pregnant women have been forced to undergo unwanted cesareans; they've been ordered to have their cervixes sewn up to prevent miscarriage; they've been incarcerated for consuming alcohol; and they've been detained, as in the case of one young woman, simply because she ‘lack[ed] motivation or [the] ability to seek medical care’.”[35] The ACLU further noted that in 1989 the City of Charleston adopted a policy called the Interagency Policy on Cocaine Abuse in Pregnancy (IPCAP) was created and under this policy pregnant women were subject to warrantless searches “if they met any one of several criteria, including no or minimal prenatal care; unexplained preterm labor; birth defects or poor fetal growth; separation of the placenta from the uterine wall; a history of drug or alcohol abuse; or intrauterine fetal death..”  Among the horrendous examples of overzealousness, the ACLU notes that during the first few months of the program “women were immediately arrested after they or their newborns tested positive for cocaine. One woman spent the last three weeks of her pregnancy in jail. During this time she received prenatal care in handcuffs and shackles. Authorities arrested another woman soon after she gave birth; still bleeding and dressed in only a hospital gown, she was handcuffed and taken to the city jail.”


In 1994, the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services began investigating whether the civil rights of African American patients were violated, whereupon the IPCAP was dropped completely. Incidentally, a total of 30 women were arrested under the policy and 29 were African American.[36]


Following the Ferguson v. City of Charleston decision, South Carolina began to go after other women in a similar situation. The next case they took to court was another black woman, who used cocaine during her pregnancy. Shortly thereafter, prosecutors in Honolulu went after a native Hawaiian for the death of her two-day-old son.  She was charged with using crystal methamphetamine during her pregnancy.  It should be noted that the South Carolina law could be applied to pregnant women who smoke, drink alcohol, work around certain chemicals and even change cat litter, all of which would constitute activity that may cause “potential harm to a fetus.”[37]  Completely ignored by the drug warriors is the fact that children are more likely to be at risk of harm from prenatal exposure to cigarettes and alcohol (“Fetal Alcohol Syndrome”). One study created the label of “Fetal Tobacco Syndrome” to “draw attention to the extraordinarily high miscarriage and morbidity rates associated with prenatal exposure to cigarette smoke.”[38]


Recently a number of organizations, such as the Drug Policy Alliance, have come out against the criminalization of pregnancy. Recent research has challenged the connection between drug use and pregnancy problems, noting that various other social factors are more

important.  One survey of the literature found that less than 5% of birth defects are because of drug use and problems such as low birth weight and other fetal development problems stem mostly from the lack of pre-natal care.[39] One fact, often overlooked, is that many poor

women are discouraged from seeking help for their pregnancy for the simple fact that they may be reported to the police for drug use.


The lawyer who took the above-referenced case to the Supreme Court has commented that race enters into the picture, which is not surprising.  She notes that:


            Because the problem of cocaine use in pregnancy was presented predominantly as a problem of the African American community it is deeply intertwined with issues of race, race discrimination, and the legacy of slavery:  while illicit substance abuse crosses all race and class lines, this particular debate has focused on low-income African-American women, many of whom rely on welfare. Because it involves women and pregnancy, the issue of drugs and pregnancy is inseparable from issues concerning the status of all women as well as with sex and sexuality.[40]





[*]  Portions of this paper taken from the author’s Our Punitive Society (Waveland Press, forthcoming).


[1] Bloom, B. (2003). Gender-Responsive Strategies: Research, Practice, and Guiding Principles for Women Offenders. Washington, DC: National Institute of Corrections.


[2] Daly, K. 1992.  "Women's Pathways to Felony Court: Feminist theories of Lawbreaking and Problems of Representation."  Southern California Review of Law and Women's Studies 2: 11-52 Miller, E.  1986.  Street Woman.  Philadelphia: Temple University Press Miller, Chesney-Lind, M. and L. Pasko (2004). The Female Offender: Girls, Women, and Crime (2nd ed.).  Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.


[3] Ibid.


[4]  For 1976 data, see Shelden, R. G. Criminal Justice in America.  Boston: Little Brown, 1982, p. 347; 1999 data in Beck, A. J., “Prisoners in 1999.”  Washington, DC: Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2000.

[5] One report noted that between 1977 and 2001 the number of women in prison grew by 592% compared to 338% for men. Women Prison Association (2003). “The Population of women in Prison Increases Rapidly.”August.  Accessed on 12/18/08.


[6] Ibid, p. 26; Harrison, P. M. and J. C. Karberg. (2003). “Prison and Jail Inmates at Mid-Year 2002.”  Washington, DC: Bureau of Justice Statistics, April.


[7] Donziger, S. (1996). The Real War on Crime.  New York: Harper/Collins, p. 152.


[8] How this has happened is another story; see Owen, B. (1998). “In the Mix”: Struggle and Survival in a Women’s Prison.  Albany, NY: SUNY Press and Chesney-Lind and Pasko, The Female Offender, for further discussion of this issue.


[9]  Edmondson, R. (2003). “Flaws in the Penal System: ‘Let my dying mom out of prison’.” San Francisco Chronicle, December 18.


[10] Bloom, B. & Steinhart, D. (1993). Why punish the children? A Reappraisal of the Children of Incarcerated Mothers in America. San Francisco, CA: National Council on Crime and Delinquency.


[11]  Chesney-Lind and Pasko, The Female Offender.


[12] FBI, Uniform Crime Report, 2003.


[13] Sourcebook on Criminal Justice Statistics, 2003.


[14]  Austin, J., M. Bruce, L. Carroll, P. McCall, and S. C. Richards. “The Use of Incarceration in the United States.”  The American Society of Criminology, November 2000, p. 8.


[15] Harrison, P.M. and A. J. Beck (2005). Prisoners in 2004. Washington, DC: Bureau of Justice Statistics December; Bureau of Justice Statistics (2005), Compendium of Federal Justice Statistics, 2003 (Washington, DC: US Dept. of Justice, October.


[16]  Donziger, The Real War on Crime; US Department of Justice (1994). “Women in Prison, Survey of State Prison Inmates, 1991.” March.


[17] Mauer, M., C. Potler and R. Wolf (1999). Gender and Justice: Women Drugs and Sentencing Policy. Washington, DC: The Sentencing Project, cited by B. Owen, “Women in Prison,” Drug Policy Alliance.

[18] Prisoner Action Coalition (2000). “Women in California Prisons.” Berkeley, CA:; “Study: 1 in 37 U.S. adults have prison experience,”, August 18, 2003.

[19] Bonczar, T. (2003). “Prevalence of Imprisonment in the U.S. Population, 1974-2001.” Washington, DC: Bureau of Justice Statistics.


[20] Donziger, The Real War on Crime, p. 152.

[21] Amnesty International (1999). Not Part of My Sentence: Violations of the Human Rights of Women in Custody. Washington, DC: Amnesty International, March, p. 26.

[22] Amnesty International (nd.).  “Women in Prison: A Fact Sheet.”


[23] Human Rights Watch (1999). “Who Goes to Prison for Drug Offenses?
A Rebuttal to the New York State District Attorneys Association.” New York: Human Rights Watch,


[24] Women in Prison Project (2005). “Women in Prison and Substance Abuse Fact Sheet.” New York: Correctional Association of New York, March.

[25] Saxakali Magazine (1997). “At the bottom of the global narcotics economy:
Minority Women Couriers.” January.; this charge has been collaborated by other sources.  See Owen, “Women in Prison” and T. Huling (1995). “Women Drug Couriers: Sentencing Reform Needed for Prisoners of War.” Criminal Justice (winter), pp. 15-19, 58-62. A report in the Houston Chronicle (July 15, 2000).notes that “To arouse less suspicion, the cartels often hire women and children.” See “Mules ferry drugs across borders in game of chance,” Even the State Department verifies this with a brief report called “Things You Should Know Before You Go Abroad,”

[26] Gillan, A. (2003). “Bursting point: the drugs mules filling up UK prisons.” Guardian Newspapers,

[27] American Civil Liberties Union (2005).  Caught in the Net: The Impact of Drug Policies on Women and Families.  New York: American Civil Liberties Union, p. 11.


[28] Ibid.  The study referred to is: Rigert, J. (1997).  “Some Win Fight with Depression, others Lose.”  Minneapolis Star Tribune, December 15.


[29]  Ibid, p.148.


[30] Siegel, L. (1997).  “The Pregnancy Police Fight the War on Drugs.” In C. Reinarman and H. G. Levine (eds.), Crack in America: Demon Drugs and Social Justice. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, p. 251.


[31] Ibid.


[32] Gray, M. (1998).  Drug Crazy: How We Got into this Mess and How We can Get Out.  New York: Routledge, pp. 108-109.


[33] Siegel, p. 257.

[34]  Talvi, S. (2003). “Criminalizing Motherhood.” The Nation (December 3).


[35]  American Civil Liberties Union (2000). “Ferguson v. City of Charleston: Social and Legal Contexts.”  They cite the following study: Kolder, V., J. Gallagher, and M. Parsons (1987). “Court-Ordered Obstetrical Interventions,” New England Journal of Medicine 316, No. 19: 1195. 


[36] Ibid.


[37] Talvi, “Criminalizing Motherhood.”

[38] Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University (1997). Substance Abuse and the American Woman.  New York: Columbia University; DiFranza, J. R.and  R. A. Lew, (1995). “Effect of Maternal Cigarette Smoking on Pregnancy Complications and Sudden Death Syndrome,” Journal of Family Practice 40: 385. Cited by Paltrow, who notes that “Cigarette smoking has been linked to as many as 141,000 miscarriages and 4,800 deaths resulting from perinatal disorders, as well as 2,200 deaths from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, nationwide.”

[39] Lindesmith Center (1999). “Cocaine and Pregnancy.” New York: The Lindesmith Center.

[40] Paltrow, L. M. (1999).  “Punishment and Prejudice: Judging Drug-Using Pregnant Women.” In J. E. Hanigsberg and S. Ruddick (eds), Mother Troubles: Rethinking Contemporary Maternal Dilemmas. Boston: Beacon Press. This article appeared on line at:  Paltrow cites the following concerning the issue of race: Roberts, D. (1997). Killing the Black Body: Race, reproduction, and the Meaning of Liberty.  New York: Pantheon Books.