sterilization_of_female_inmatesWhen it comes to the discussion of the prison industrial complex in the Black community, most of the focus is on the high numbers Black men behind bars. While the statistics are alarming (as of 2001, one in six Black men had spent some time in prison and jails), women are now being incarcerated at twice the rate as men.

Between 1980 and 2010, the number of women sentenced to prison rose by over 600-percent, and there are now over 200,000 women behind bars. The reason? Drugs.

The War on Drugs has condemned countless women to prison for either aiding their boyfriends’ drug operations—both knowingly and unknowingly—or being addicted to controlled substances.

According to the NAACP, although African Americans represent just 12-percent of drug users, they account for 38-percent of those arrested for drug offenses, and 59-percent of those in state prison for a drug offense. Moreover, the Sentencing Project reports that African Americans “serve virtually as much time in prison for a drug offense (58.7 months) as whites do for a violent offense (61.7 months).”

Though many states are moving to decriminalize the use of banned substances like marijuana, the drug war has taken a serious toll on women and families. Many women are sentenced to prison while they are pregnant, and most female inmates have children at home.

The effects? Children are thrown into the foster care system, which puts them at risk for following in their mother’s footsteps and ending up in the jail system.

Today, Attorney General Eric Holder announced that the Obama Administration is rolling out a “new and improved approach will make the criteria for clemency recommendation more expansive” and may clear the way for thousands of non-violent drug offenders to get out of prison earlier than their harsh sentences allowed.

Holder explained the reason for the change:

“The White House has indicated it wants to consider additional clemency applications, to restore a degree of justice, fairness, and proportionality for deserving individuals who do not pose a threat to public safety,” he said in a videotaped statement. “The Justice Department is committed to recommending as many qualified applicants as possible for reduced sentences.”

“There are still too many people in federal prison who were sentenced under the old regime — and who, as a result, will have to spend far more time in prison than they would if sentenced today for exactly the same crime.”

Recently, Brave New Films looked into the growing numbers of women in prison and what America can do, in addition to expanding clemency options, to change things.

Take a look:

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  • Ask_Me

    Obama can miss me with this mess. Just yesterday I watched a documentary called “Crack House” on youtube. The police in Rockford, IL set up cameras in a crackhouse. If you could see the nonsense that took place it would make you sick to your stomach. I have ZERO sympathy for drug dealers. These folks are just as much a plague in the black community as the murderers, child molestors etc. They can turn whole neighborhoods to spit.

    As for women…are we talking about women in general or black women?

    As someone who used to work for the system I can tell you…alot of the black women I met in prison got caught up with some good for nothing man.

    • Red Pill

      Sure, even when black women commit crime and make stupid choices, it’s still the fault of the men. Don’t you ever get tired of the same dumb song and dance? Amazing lol.

    • Ask_Me

      From the article…

      “The War on Drugs has condemned countless women to prison for either aiding their boyfriends’ drug operations—both knowingly and unknowingly…


    • Brad

      You still are going to be held accountable for your actions.

    • Ask_Me

      Very true….I was only stating the fact that a lot of the black women I met while working in the system were there thanks in large part to the men they got caught up with….the troll up top took that personally…despite it being documented.

    • Anthony

      Her name is Kemba Smith , and Emerge magazine made her story a cause célèbre.

    • Anthony

      Here is a recent update on Kemba Smith Pradia.

    • Ask_Me

      I don’t think this is the same woman I’m thinking of…the woman I’m thinking of wasn’t in a violent relationship or at least I don’t remember her being in one.

    • Ivory

      I have to agree with you on this one. If these were men they couldn’t blame befriending a no good man as an excuse. More crucial are these young boys who are extremely vulnerable to this lifestyle yet are given no sympathy because they are males despite the fact that they are kids.

    • Anthony

      Getting caught up with a good for nothing man is sort of a female version of falling in with the wrong crowd. I remember there used to be a great black oriented news and current events magazine back in the 1990s that did a cover story about a young woman who got involved with a drug dealer while in college, and she was eventually caught transporting drugs for him, and she was given a really long sentence. At the time, I found myself pretty short on sympathy because she willingly made some terrible choices, and suffered because of it. She was eventually freed after her parents (who were wonderfully supportive considering what a mess she had made of her life,) were able to rally public support for her.

      However I feel about folks making stupid decisions, especially young people in college who are dumb enough to sell hard drugs, I feel basic fairness requires that women inmates get the same breaks currently being given to men.

    • Ask_Me

      If I’m not mistaken the woman you are referring to (I can’t remember her name, but I remember the case) did NOT knowingly transport drugs for the man in question. He stashed them in her car. She did not know they were there…assuming we are talking about the same person. That’s the reason why so many people rallied behind her. If she had known about the drugs it would have been a different story.

    • Anthony

      She had dated him a long time and knew he was a drug dealer. As I said in comparing following a no good man to hanging with the wrong crowd, traveling with a known drug dealer is like begging to charged. He she were a he, and hanging with her boy, there would have been no sympathy.

    • Ask_Me

      I agree…guilty by association, but her sympathy was given because she did not willingly participate in HIS illegal activity.

    • Anthony

      It turns out we were talking about different cases.

    • Ask_Me

      Yeah I figured that out.

  • Black Male Privilege

    This is a good program that must be combined with true re-education and social training for those brothers and sisters incarcerated. If justice is truly blind then there must also be equality in sentencing when it comes to non-violent and drug offenders, because what are and we’re doing isn’t working.

  • David C. Morrow

    If they are, which I doubt, maybe the authorities are admitting finally that they commit more crimes than n because they so rarely get punished — especially when there are men who can be blamed, guilty or not.
    Take your medicine, “ladies”, and learn personal responsibility.

    • Ivory

      What this really means is that women make great companions in illegal conspiracies if they can use their gender as evidence of their innocence. If I were more enterprising I would enlist female drug dealers promising reduced sentences or non at all if they get caught.

    • David C. Morrow

      The down side is that of course the females will rat you out even if they don’t have to to get lesser sentences.

    • Ivory

      I’m female so I’ll be alright.

    • David C. Morrow

      Yes, that’s how it works.

  • Ivory

    Are young boys able to use the same excuse? Couldn’t a young teenage black boy say he fell into the wrong crowd looking for a father figure wanting to prove himself the best way he knew how in his ghetto neighbourhood? These young teenagers are the real vulnerable people.

  • Objection

    Mr. President,

    When will you give Marcus Garvey a pardon?