From 2013 to 2017, women in the United States experienced a rapid increase in the rate at which they were arrested for drug-law violations—an increase four times greater than that experienced by men—according to a report released on May 14 by the Prison Policy Initiative (PPI).
Utilizing data from the the Federal Bureau of Investigation, PPI also reports that women—especially women of color—are impacted by criminalization in a way that is often invisible. That’s because they typically interact with police, for example through traffic or street stops, at greater rates than arrest records reveal.
A sheer head count shows that more men were still arrested in 2017 for drugs (844,106) than women (276,015). However, “while the country has been in the throes of the opioid epidemic,” surging arrests of women are fast closing this gap, as the report notes:
Total arrests shown by the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting Program declined more dramatically among men than among women between 2013 and 2017—and arrests of women for drug-law violations were a significant driver of this difference. Between 1997 and 2018, arrests of men declined by 30.4 percent, while those for women fell by only 6.4 percent.
Similarly, while overall incarceration is turning downwards in the United States, women populations in state prison have increased at a much faster rate than their male counterparts.
The drug field is rife with examples of gender discrimination. As Filter has reported, treatment for substance use disorder is often deployed as a means to control women, exacerbating intimate partner violence. And pregnant people have a target on their back, with heightened scrutiny of their drug use and ability to parent. The drug war is, at its core, sexist.
Photograph: Busted! via Wikimedia Commons