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Gender and Justice: Women, Drugs, and Sentencing Policy

November 01, 1999
Marc Mauer, Cathy Potler, and Richard Wolf
This report examines the impact of drug offenses and sentencing policy on women at the national level and in New York, California and Minnesota.

A key factor in the rise of the women’s prison population in recent years has been the impact of the “war on drugs.”

As will be seen, the set of law enforcement and sentencing policies and practices that have been enshrined under this approach have had a dramatic and disproportionate impact on women. This has been due to a variety of factors relating both to the circumstances in which women use and abuse drugs, and the impact, whether intended or not, of criminal justice policies.

This report examines the confluence of these various factors in recent years – how the criminal justice system has responded to drug abuse and crime by women. We begin with a national overview of the issue and then focus on trends in three states – New York, California, and Minnesota. The state analysis was conducted because national data often mask significant variation among the states in how they respond to social and criminal problems. This may involve law enforcement priorities, sentencing policy, the use of discretion within the criminal justice system, and responses that lie outside the criminal justice system.

To read the report, download the PDF below.

 
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