War on Drugs: War on Women: Applications of Peacemaking Criminology to Gender Inequities in Crime Control Strategies

Polly Radosh, Western Illinois University

The war on drugs, which has now survived through two decades of punitive sentencing, has had profound affects on the demographic features of American prisons. Significant increases in the rate of incarceration of African American men is a startling effect of the war on drugs. Gender distributions, which may be less obvious and represent minute absolute representations by comparison to race-based shifts, are also a troublesome byproduct of the war on drugs. Over 70 percent of the women under correctional supervision in jail, on probation, or in prison during the decade of the 1990s had committed a property or drug crime. While women's incarceration for other crime declined during the 1990s, prison sentences for drug crime increased. Women who are the wives, mothers, or girl friends of drug dealers may serve significantly longer sentences than the dealers themselves for drug convictions under current sentencing guidelines. The present paper explores the consequences of strategies adopted to fight the war on drugs and applies a peacemaking theoretical paradigm for understanding and addressing both subtle and overt gender inequities in sentencing. This paper uses the peacemaking theoretical approach of Richard Quinney and others to explain and address the issue of gendered differentials in drug sentencing.

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Updated 05/20/2006