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Article Summary

Arrests and Women's Drug Use

During 2005, there were a total of 1,357,841 state and local arrests for drug abuse violations in the United Sates, where gender information was available. Of these arrests, approximately 19.1% of these drug abuse violations involved females.

In FY 2004, the U.S. Marshals Service arrested and booked 19,434 female suspects for Federal offenses, representing 13.8% of the total arrests made by this agency. Of the U.S. Marshals Service arrestees booked on drug offense charges, 14.5% were female. Also in FY 2004, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) arrested 4,285 females, representing 15.6% of all DEA arrests. Approximately 1,188 of the female DEA arrests in FY 2004 involved methamphetamine.

Females Arrested by the DEA, by Type of Drug

Drug Category

Total arrested

Powered cocaine


Crack cocaine








Other or non-drug


From October 1, 2002 to September 30, 2003, there were 9,127 female offenders convicted of a Federal offense. Approximately 82.3% of the female offenders convicted of felony drug offenses in FY 2003 were sentenced to incarceration. On September 30, 2003, there were 10,493 female offenders in Federal prison. Females accounted for 8.0% of the Federal prisoners serving time for drug offenses.

During 2004, there were 92,684 sentenced female prisoners under State jurisdiction. Approximately 31.5% of incarcerated females were sentenced for drug offenses compared to only 20.7% of males.

During FY 2006, there were 25,803 Federal defendants charged with a drug offense whose gender was reported to the U.S. Sentencing Commission. Approximately 12.2% of these defendants were female. Additionally, 859 females were sentenced for drug offenses relating to methamphetamine during FY 2006.

Females Sentenced for Drug Offenses, by Type of Drug, FY 2006

Drug Category

Total sentenced

Power cocaine


Crack cocaine












Women, Drugs and Crime

A Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) report found that about half of women offenders confined in State prisons had been using alcohol, drugs, or both at the time of the offense for which they had been incarcerated. About 6 in 10 women in State prison described themselves as using drugs in the month before the offense and 5 in 10 described themselves as a daily user of drugs. Nearly 1 in 3 women serving time in State prisons said they had committed the offense which brought them to prison in order to obtain money to support their need for drugs.

A report from the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP), that summarized research on female gangs, states that drug offenses are among the most common offenses committed by female gang members. In Los Angeles County, an analysis of lifetime arrest records of female gang members revealed that drug offenses were the most frequent cause for arrest. A special tabulation from Chicago showed that between 1993 and 1996, either drug offenses or violent offenses were the most common cause for arrest of female gang members.

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