America’s war on drugs inflicts disproportionate harm on women – most of them mothers – who are going to prison in ever-rising numbers despite usually minor roles in drug rings, the American Civil Liberties Union and two other groups contend. The Associated Press says the organizations are issuing a report, “Caught in the Net,” today at a two-day national conference in New York, bringing together criminal justice officials, sentence-reform activists,and other experts to consider its package of proposed legislative and policy changes.
The report seeks expansion of treatment programs geared toward women, says incarceration should be a last resort, and urges better efforts to maintain ties between imprisoned mothers and their children. Women are being imprisoned at a much faster rate than men, mostly because of tougher drug laws. There were 101,000 women in state and federal prisons in 2003, an eight-fold increase since 1980; roughly one-third were drug offenders, compared to about one-fifth of male inmates. The report was written by ACLU women’s rights project director Lenora Lapidus, joined by authors from New York University Law School’s Brennan Center for Justice and the advocacy group Break the Chains.