The drug war simplifies the disposal of undesireable people in a society were humanity has become a catch-word for “what we can get away with and still look clean.” Because a disproportionate number of american women are poor and disadvantaged, a disproportionate number of them ? many of them single parents go to prison for drug offences. In the worst US prisons, women are routinely raped and sold as prostitutes.
Anti-drug laws target women more fervently than men. In 1999, one out of every three women in prison was sentenced for a non-violent drug offence, compared to one in five for men. From the beginning of the Reagan era until 1996, the number of women in prison for a drug offence inflated every year at double the male rate, a shocking 888% in total during that period.
In general, the largest proportion of inmates ? including female inmates ? that are jailed on a drug offence are in for marijuana. In 1980, out of nearly 581 thousand drug arrests, 69% were for marijuana, and over 3/4 of all marijuana arrests were for simple possession. The trend has contined for over twenty years. In 1999, out of the 1.5 million drug arrests, 46% were for marijuana, and over 88% of all marijuana arrests were for simple possession.
While in prison, women can expect the vilest of treatment from guards. A 1998 GA0 report, “Women in Prison: Sexual Misconduct by Correctional Staff,” found that between ’95 and ’98 there were 506 allegations of sexual assault against female prisoners in a small sample study of three unnamed prison jurisdictions. Because of difficulties verifying prisoners’ stories, and the unwillingness of other inmates to come forward, only 14 of these cases resulted in convictions against prison staff.
“In one of the cases settled, BOP agreed to pay three women $500,000 to end a lawsuit in which the women claimed they had been beaten, raped, and sold by guards for sex with male inmates [at the Federal Detetion Center in Pleasanton, California],” wrote the authors of the report. The GAO report also mentions widespread sexual abuse of female prisoners in DC prisons.
According to Amnesty International’s (AI) 1999 report on the USA, the rape of women prisoners is even more widespread and commonplace than the GAO report let on. AI found a flood of allegations from prisons in California, Michigan and New York. In August of ’99, a UN Special Reporter on Violence against Women was sent to investigate inmate complaints of sexual abuse, and was denied entry to three Michigan prisons.
In 1997, the US Department of Justice began an ongoing law suit against both Michegan and Arizona for “failing to protect women from sexual misconduct, including sexual assaults and ‘prurient viewing during dressing, showering and use of tiolet facilities.'” The law suit was filed the same year that Annette Romo, a pregnant prisoner in Arizona, was shackled by staff, began bleeding, begged for medical help, was refused any assistance and consequently lost her baby.
Since the Reagan era, the US government has been putting an increasing number of women in jail for carrying a harmless medicinal herb, but then subjecting them to conditions that the SPCA would consider inhumane for animals. Just who are the criminals, anyway?