It is often easy to assume the war on drugs is centered on men, when in truth it is affecting an untold number of women. According to an Alertnet article, the rate of female imprisonment has increased by nearly 800 percent since 1977, and this number is still rising. Much of this increase is attributed to the war on drugs.
The Bureau of Justice Statistics shows that 40 percent of criminal convictions leading to incarceration of women at the turn of this century were for drug-related crimes. The latest victims are mothers, sisters and daughters, suffering in a system bent on punishment instead of rehabilitation.
Drug Czar Gil Kerlikowske has said it is time to evaluate how U.S. policies affect the women of this country. The gravity of the economic and social costs for such policies is essential, especially given the fact that more than 75 percent of women in prison are mothers.
There are some who argue that the incarceration for a drug-related crime should result in the termination of parental rights. The Adoption and Safe Families Act of 1997 dictates the initiation of the termination of parental rights proceedings if a child has been placed in foster care for 15 of the last 22 months.
A study by the U.S. General Accounting Office shows the median prison sentence for women is 60 months and as a result, the majority of mothers in prison lose their parental rights. More than 75 percent of women incarcerated in federal prisons are there on nonviolent drug offenses.
A study issued by the Sentencing Project showed that 1,706,600 minor children had an incarcerated parent in 2007, and half of these children were under the age of 10. Based on current statistics, many of these children will be incarcerated as juvenile offenders.
The Study can be found here: Admin_Documents_publications_inc_incarceratedparents