Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Caught in the Net: The ACLU Examines the Effects of the Drug War on Women

I came across this report late, but it's still an incredible find. The ACLU, along with Break the Chains: Communities of Color and the War on Drugs and the Brennan Center for Justice (housed at my alma mater, NYU), published this report, titled "Caught in the Net: The Impact of Drug Policies on Women and Families," on March 15, 2005. They also organized a two-day conference that same month in order to "begin a national dialogue among lawmakers, social services and criminal justice professionals, and advocates on the impact of drug policies on women and their families." (See here for a link to the letter that uses this language and explains the conference.)

The point of their work, their report, and their conference, was to show that the 'war on drugs' is actually a war on people, and, more specifically, a war on women. As the authors note in their Executive Summary, "Federal and state drug laws and policies over the past twenty years have had specific, devastating, and disparate effects on women, and particularly women of color and low-income women... Women of color use drugs at a rate equal to or lower than white women, yet are far more likely to be affected by current drug laws and policies." These effects have far-reaching consequences, including the mass incarceration of eight times the amount of women who were incarcerated in 1980, widespread cases of sexual and physical violence and abuse among women who are incarcerated, heightened levels of psychological and physical trauma among this same population, and the rippling effects of displaced and poverty-stricken children due to incarcerated mothers, fathers, and parents.

I highly recommend the report, particularly for its hard and cold facts regarding populations that we don't consider highly involved in American drug policies or our current drug war. This report highlights the often-hidden (or purposefully disguised) victims of on ongoing irrational policies. While it mentions very little about the media's role in influencing the ways we view drug-involved women, it's nonetheless a useful report, and certainly a step in the right direction.

What I haven't been able to find is any additional information about Break the Chains (the only thing I see is an anti-oppression organization from by a Women's Baptist Association). Is this organization no longer around? Does anyone have any additional information on it?

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