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Adjustment to Prison of Women Convicted of Possession, Trafficking, and Nondrug Offenses

NCJ Number
Journal of Drug Issues Volume: 32 Issue: 4 Dated: Fall 2002 Pages: 1033-1050
Date Published
18 pages

This article examines how women convicted of drug offenses adjust to their terms of imprisonment.


In recent years there has been an increase in the number of women arrested and convicted for drug offenses in the United States. In fact, during 1998, approximately three fourths of the women incarcerated in Federal prisons were serving sentences for drug offenses. It is imperative to study how these women drug offenders adjust to imprisonment because this population of offenders tend to be released from prison sooner than other women offenders. Previous research has indicated that most short-term offenders, defined as those serving less than 18 months in prison, are incarcerated for drug offenses. The author investigated differences in adjustment to prison between women incarcerated for drug possession, drug trafficking, and nondrug offenses. Six hundred and thirty women incarcerated at a maximum security State prison for either drug possession, drug trafficking, or other nondrug offenses completed self-report adjustment questionnaires. The results of statistical analyses indicate that those women incarcerated for drug possession offenses reported less internal distress, lower levels of conflict, greater satisfaction with institutional conditions, fewer mental health symptoms, and were less likely to view life in prison as worse than life outside prison than were women offenders of the other two categories. These results remained true even when minority status and length of sentence were controlled. Another observation springing from this study was that women of color were disproportionately represented within both drug possession and drug trafficking groups. The justice system should rethink its policy of incarcerating women convicted of drug possession, especially in light of the disproportionate number of minority women arrested and convicted for these crimes. References

Date Published: January 1, 2002