The War on Drugs and Welfare Policy:The Impact of Their Intersection on Black Women in Urban America

  • Julia S. Jordan-Zachery


Gone are the days when we were inundated with stories of substance-abusing women (i.e., crack abusers). Over time, the image of all that is wrong in urban America seems to have disappeared from the media and the political elite’s radar. However, in this analysis, I show that this policy population is far from forgotten. Indeed, she reappears in welfare policies in the 1990s, such as California Work Opportunity and Responsibility to Kids Act of 1997 (CalWORKs). The 1996 welfare-reform legislation, the Personal Responsibility and Work Reconciliation Act of 1996 (PRWORA), includes an intersection of crime policy and welfare policy that allows for the denial of benefits to individuals convicted of a drug felony. No other offense results in the loss of benefits. Using a case-study approach, I analyze the convergence of these policies in California to show its impact on African American women in urban areas. Due to racial and, increasingly, gender disparities in the criminal-justice system, African American women and Latinas in urban areas are overwhelmingly in contact with the criminaljustice system. Additionally, these women are overwhelmingly represented among the poor and therefore find themselves reliant on public assistance. African American women’s criminal activity is correlated with their poverty. To deny them assistance appears to be a policy designed to increase their participation in drug abuse and, ultimately, in the criminal-justice system. The impact of the meeting of these policies is felt in a number of areas including the women’s abilities to participate in their communities and to achieve self-sufficiency—impacts that combine to perpetuate inequality within this group.


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Copyright information

© Gayle T. Tate and Lewis A. Randolph 2006

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  • Julia S. Jordan-Zachery

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