“How are women affected by the drug war?”

Drug Policy Question of the Week – 2-8-11

As answered by Mary Jane Borden, Editor of Drug War Facts for the Drug Truth Network on 2-8-11. http://www.drugtruth.net/cms/node/3261

Question of the Week: How are women affected by the drug war?

According to the 2009 National Survey for Drug Use and Health, the percentage of women using drugs and alcohol is less than men. About 6.6% of American women are current users of marijuana vs. 10.8% for men. Men use more psychotherapeutics and cocaine than women. Men are also more likely than women to use alcohol and drink heavily. However, the small percentages for non-medical use of tranquilizers and for methamphetamine are about the same for men and women.

Just because women are less likely to engage in substance use, doesn’t mean that they are spared arrest and incarceration for drug offenses.

The Institute on Women and Criminal Justice reported that,

“The number of women serving sentences of more than a year grew by 757 percent between 1977 and 2004 – nearly twice the 388 percent increase in the male prison population.”

In 2008, 25,500 women were imprisoned under state jurisdiction for drug offenses of one year or more.

While women often play relatively minor roles in the drug trade, they bring special issues to the criminal justice system.

As the Institute noted,

“More than 70 percent of women in prison have children. More than half of mothers in prison have no visits with their children for the duration of their time behind bars. Children are generally subject to instability and uncertainly while their mothers are imprisoned.”

The Institute concluded,

“Incarcerating women does not solve the problems that underlie their involvement in the criminal justice system. ”

These facts and others like them can be found in the Women and the Drug War Chapter of Drug War Facts at http://www.drugwarfacts.org.

Questions concerning these or other facts concerning drug policy can be e-mailed to mjborden@drugwarfacts.org