The ACLU report, Caught in the Net: The Impact of Drug Policies on Women and Families, states:

“The war on drugs now reaches beyond those using or addicted to drugs, targeting individuals unwittingly, unknowingly, or peripherally involved in drug related activity. This widening of the net has had the effect of capturing more women, particularly women in relationships (some of which are abusive) with partners or family members who use or sell drugs, as well as women who turn to the drug trade to supplement their income in order to support their families in the absence of living wage jobs and in the face of cuts to public assistance.”

Take a position. Do you believe that sentencing reforms are needed to reduce the number of women in prison?

First, title your post either “Sentencing reforms are needed to reduce the number of women in prison” or “Sentencing reforms are not needed to reduce the number of women in prison.”

Then, use the information gained in this module and additional resources as needed to make your case. Be sure to build your case with factual resources. Consider the following questions as you make your case:

In what ways have sentencing structures contributed to the increase of women in prison?
What factors contribute to women being impacted by drug policies? Should reforms be made to reduce the impact that these factors have on the sentencing of women?
What is meant by the phrase “equality with a vengeance”? In what ways does this support the need to incarcerate women? In what ways does it point to a need to reform sentencing for women?

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Sample Answer


The war on drugs has had a disproportionate impact on women, particularly women of color. Women are more likely to be arrested for drug offenses than men, and they are more likely to be sentenced to prison for those offenses. This is due in part to the fact that women are more likely to be convicted of drug offenses related to their relationships with men, such as being a drug mule or being involved in drug trafficking to support a partner or family member.

The war on drugs has also had a negative impact on women’s families. When women are incarcerated, their children are more likely to be placed in foster care or to live with other relatives. This can have a devastating impact on the children, who may experience feelings of abandonment and insecurity.

Full Answer Section


Sentencing reforms are needed to address the disproportionate impact of the war on drugs on women. These reforms should include:

  • Decriminalizing drug use and possession for personal use.
  • Reforming mandatory minimum sentences for drug offenses.
  • Providing more opportunities for drug treatment and diversion programs.
  • Addressing the root causes of women’s involvement in the drug trade, such as poverty and domestic violence.

Sentencing reforms are not a magic bullet, but they are an important step towards reducing the number of women in prison and improving the lives of women and their families.

Here are some additional arguments in favor of sentencing reforms:

  • Sentencing reforms would save taxpayers money. It is more expensive to incarcerate someone than to provide them with drug treatment or other services.
  • Sentencing reforms would be more effective in reducing crime. Studies have shown that drug treatment is more effective at reducing recidivism than incarceration.
  • Sentencing reforms would be more just. The current system disproportionately punishes women and people of color.

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