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33 Clearinghouse Rev. 587 (1999-2000)
Welfare Reform and Women with Felony Drug Convictions: Research Results and Policy Recommendations

handle is hein.journals/clear33 and id is 597 raw text is: Welfare Reform and Women with Felony
Drug Convictions: Research Results and
Policy Recommendations
By Amy E. Hirsch

As a result of the war on drugs, approxi-
mately 60,000 women in the United States
are convicted of felony drug offenses each
year. Because relatively little research has
been done on women in the criminal jus-
tice system, and media attention has
focused only on women and drugs in
connection with drug use during preg-
nancy, most advocates and policymakers
know very little about women with felony
drug convictions.1 Yet federal welfare leg-
islation enacted in 1996 provides that,
unless a state affirmatively passes legisla-

tion to the contrary, any individual with
a felony drug conviction for conduct after
August 22, 1996, is permanently barred
from receiving Temporary Assistance for
Needy Families benefits and food stamps.2
Congress passed this ban on benefits
after a total of two minutes of debate in
the Senate and no debate at all in the
House of Representatives. At least 27
states have eliminated or modified the
ban in order to reduce recidivism, ensure
that drug and alcohol treatment services
remain available, encourage family reuni-

1 SHEIGLA MURPHY & MARSHA ROSENBAUM, PREGNANT WOMEN ON DRUGS (1999); CLAIRE STERK,
FAST LIVES: WOMEN WHO USE CRACK COCAINE (1999); LISA MAHER, SEXED WORK (1997); and
STEPHEN R. KENDALL, SUBSTANCE AND SHADOW: WOMEN AND ADDICTION IN THE UNITED STATES
(1996), comprise an excellent-small but growing-body of literature on women drug
users. However, most general discussions on drug addiction and drug policy pay little
attention to women and no attention to the connection between women's drug usage
and sexual and physical violence against women. The only context in which women are
discussed at all in the general literature is drug usage by pregnant women. See, e.g.,
FRANKLIN E. ZIMRING & GORDON HAWKINS, THE SEARCH FOR RATIONAL DRUG CONTROL (1992). I
conducted the research for this article while on a leave of absence from Community
Legal Services in 1997-98. A Senior Soros Justice Fellowship from the Center on Crime,
Communities and Culture of the Open Society Institute supported me. This article is
based on my longer report, SOME DAYS ARE HARDER THAN HARD: WELFARE REFORM AND
WOMEN WITH DRUG CONVICTIONS IN PENNSYLVANIA (free copies from the Center for Law and
Social Policy, 202.328.5140 or info@clasp.org).
2Al federal legislation references are to the Personal Responsibility and Work
Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996, signed by President Clinton on August 22, 1996.
Pub. L. No. 104-193, 110 Stat. 2105. The felony drug ban provision, Pub. L. No. 104-193,
§ 115, 110 Stat. 2105, 2180, became effective on July 1, 1997. The Balanced Budget Act
of 1997 amended the ban to limit its scope to convictions for conduct after August 22,
1996, rather than applying to all convictions entered after that date. Pub. L. No. 105-33,
§ 5516, 111 Stat. 251, 620 (codified as amended at 21 U.S.C. § 862a (1999)).
JANUARY-FEBRUARY 2000 1 JOURNAL OF POVERTY LAW AND POLICY

Amy E. Hirsch is a supervising
attorney, Community Legal
Services Inc., 3638 N. Broad St.,
Philadelphia, PA 19140;
215.227.2400 ext. 2415;
ahirsch @clsphila.org. See foot-
note 1 for how to obtain copies
of Hirsch's full report.

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