This has specific consequences for women, especially women in relationships with partners or relatives who use or sell drugs, as well as women who have no other choice but to become involved in the drug trade in order to support their families in the “absence of living wage jobs and in the face of cuts to public assistance." The War on Drugs has a specific and devastating impact on women.
The Sentencing Reform Act of 1984 eradicated the existing parole system and replaced it with a “determinate method” of sentencing that based all federally imposed sentences on mandatory guidelines.
In the same year, Congress enacted statutes imposing mandatory minimum sentences for drug and weapons offenses, as well as adopted definitions of “drug related activities” and harsh sentences for those with any connection to drugs.
With use of the strategies, institutions, and bureaucracy already developed at the state and local levels during the War on Crime, Reagan made national programs far more punitive by the end of the 1980s.
At the same time, the social service centers that had been founded during the War on Poverty in the 1960s were “nowhere to be found in some of the most vulnerable and isolated neighborhoods in American cities.” President Reagan’s Comprehensive Crime Control Act of 1984 focused on the activities of inner-city youth and small-time drug dealers.
Within the US, the rate of female incarceration increased fivefold in a two decade span ending in 2001; the increase occurred because of increased prosecutions and convictions of offenses related to recreational drugs, increases in the severity of offenses, and a lack of community sanctions and treatment for women who violate drug laws.