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June 8, 2005

Legislative briefing on "The Girlfriend Problem"

I have received an announcement of a legislative briefing planned for next week in Washington DC entitled "The Girlfriend Problem: How Sentencing Laws Affect Women & Children."  Though the briefing is aimed at House staffers and Representatives, I have been told that this event is open to others to attend. More details are available at this link, and here is part of the announcement's account of issues to be covered:

Women are the fastest growing group in the ever-expanding prison population. Sentencing laws have caused the number of women behind bars to explode, leaving in the rubble displaced children and overburdened families. Current drug laws punish not just those who sell drugs, but also a wide range of people who help or associate with those who sell drugs....

In too many cases, women are punished for the act of remaining with a boyfriend or husband engaged in drug activity, who is typically the father of her children. Many of these women have histories of physical and sexual abuse and/or untreated mental illness.

June 8, 2005 at 02:19 AM | Permalink


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Can someone explain to me why this is not sexist stereotyping?

Posted by: ebob | Jun 8, 2005 7:42:17 AM

For starters, it is obviously blatant sexual stereotyping. Moreover, I challenge anyone to find me one example of a woman who is convicted of "the act of remaining with a boyfriend or husband engaged in drug activity." Such a statement is debilitating hyperbole, which precludes any rational consideration of this legislative briefing.

Prof. Berman really should do a better job of describing the purveyors of this tripe, rather that providing them a pr opportunity.

-- A Criminal Defense Attorney

Posted by: Mark | Jun 8, 2005 10:59:27 AM

Well, since I respect Professor Berman, I am not going to accuse him of being a victim of this “tripe,” but, Mark, I am glad that there is one other person out there in the internet who saw things the way I saw it.

Anyway, I guess it is worth going point by point.

>>>Women are the fastest growing group in the ever-expanding prison population.

This might mean a lot of things. Maybe laws are being enforced in a more even-handed manner. Maybe women are getting out of the house more to commit crimes. Maybe there are more professions open to women which, by their nature entice women into committing some crimes. For example, 100 years ago, it would have been almost unheard of for a woman to have been convicted of some form of white-collar crime.

In fact, since, as feminist, I believe that women are equally capable of evil as men are, I think this is a good thing.

>>>Sentencing laws have caused the number of women behind bars to explode, leaving in the rubble displaced children and overburdened families.

But there still are LESS women in jail then men, so at best, this isn’t much of an explosion. Also, since no specifics are provided about which guidelines were most at fault, it I think that they are making this up.

Likewise, if a man with a family goes to jail, it will probably have a negative effect, unless the family is better off without him. But the same can be said for women.

>>>Current drug laws punish not just those who sell drugs, but also a wide range of people who help or associate with those who sell drugs....

This doesn’t really provide specifics, either. However, “current drug laws” do punish people who traffic, possess, and occupy just about any position in the drug market (except maybe involuntary user). Mere association with a drug dealer or user is not a crime, and nobody has ever been convicted for just associating with them. These girls lied.

>>>In too many cases, women are punished for the act of remaining with a boyfriend or husband engaged in drug activity, who is typically the father of her children.

As the previous commentator said, nobody was punished for just “remaining with” them. These girls are lying to you, GI.

>>>Many of these women have histories of physical and sexual abuse and/or untreated mental illness.

Now, I think we see what is going on. Highly educated women just want to say that women with less money and less education are mentally-ill and can’t make decisions for themselves. Got it. At the bottom of this is really just class warfare.

I notice that most of the people involved in this project are women. It seems like it is a failure of feminism that the best that “feminists” can do is spew out a bunch of half-truths, concoctions, and downright misstatements. These girls are doing more to hurt the chance of women truly getting a fair shake in the world than any sexist prosecutor or judge ever could.

Posted by: ebob | Jun 8, 2005 12:50:21 PM

As a daily reader of Prof. Berman, I did not mean to imply that Prof. Berman approved or endorsed the arguments/conclusions in the underlying legislative report. I instead wanted to encourage him to look behind advocacy pieces like this, to explain to us (readers) some of the biases, if known, of advocacy groups like this. In retrospect, my language appears harsh toward Prof. Berman, and instead it was intended to be harsh only toward the arguments/conclusions in the legislative report. I apologize.

That being said, I agree completely with ebob's analysis of the legislative report.

FWIW, I'm a criminal-defense attorney; I get frustrated with advocacy groups (like the one here, or FAMM, or others similarly situated) who use hyperbole to try to impact legislative choices over criminal justice. Political hyperbole reduces the likelihood of convincing legislatures that humane changes to the c.j. system are appropriate. Of course, I'm the guy who lashed out with the "tripe" comment, so I don't have much moral high ground to stand on when it comes to intemperate language.

Posted by: Mark | Jun 9, 2005 9:48:31 AM

Well, I guess it is only right that I add my 2 cents. I am not a professor, a student, an attorney, nor a prosecutor. However, I am a freind of a young lady who is being accursed of this very crime. She's the wife of a drug dealer. At present she will have to serve 4 years for her state case. She is presently awaiting word of her "fed" case. Yes, she did pled guilty to her state charge, at the advise of her attorney. He assured her that if she pled guilty and not take her case to trail that she would recieve anywhere from 3months to 3years. However, the judge gave her 15years and suspended 4. Her attorney could have, but didn't file some kind of paperwork, or motion, stating that she had a drug problem, he stated that it would've been useless considering she has a federal case pending. Well, her husbands attorney did file the paperwork and had him to get a mental evauation that concluded that he recieve extensive "out" patient drug treatment, NO JAIL TIME. I must say, I was shocked. I started to do my research and it is shocking to find how many young "black" women who are wives, baby mothers, and/or girlfriends of drug dealers are getting the book thrown at them. The procecutor made her case by saying that she was guilty because she was a willing participant and could've left at anytime. WOW!!! Well, before the judge sentenced her, he asked her if she had anything to say. She tried to articulate in the best way that she could that, she is not this drug dealer that the procector is trying to have them to believe. He, (her husband) was very abusive to her and when she would try to leave, he would come and find her and beat the SH--, out of her. This was the father of her children. This was her husband. She is now facing 10years to life for the federal charges. Her two children ages 4 and 5 are living with his mother in NYC. His mother is currently raising 5 children all of which parents are in prison.

I just wanted to comment and thank you for putting in words what seems to be a problem that not many people care about. The problem seems to be that young "black" women like myself cannot find the words to articulate how we feel about this issue. And those who can, don't because they haven't been effected by it. Futhermore, it's sadd because, where I live, I don't see this problem going away anytime soon. Alot of young black women need to be aware that marrying, dating, or even associating with a drug dealer can land you in jail. The worst part is that she may even get more time in prison than him. Especially since most of these women can't afford to pay for attorneys when thier husbands can.

Posted by: jae | Jun 24, 2005 8:46:38 AM

just some info that I found. Come on now, do your own research and you will see...or do you really believe that all of these women are liars?

Marsha Cunningham


15 Years - Crack Conspiracy

My name is Marsha Cunningham, and I am a nonviolent first time offender serving a 190-month sentence for possession with intent to distribute cocaine base and cocaine, aiding and abetting. I am presently at Marianna Federal Prison Camp in Marianna, Florida.

At the time of my arrest I was 26 years old. I was feeling as though I was just really beginning to live my life and accomplish certain things in life. I had a good job at a mortgage company in the foreclosure department, a nice condo, and two vehicles (one paid for). And to make my life complete, I met a man whom I fell in love with. After a while of dating, I let that man move in with me. He had the keys to my house, cars and heart.

On August 5, 1997, my entire world was turned upside down. I returned home from work that day to a house full of DEA agents. I was informed that my boyfriend had been arrested earlier during the day for drug trafficking. Then they arrested me because they found drugs in the storage compartment in the bottom of the stove.

I was taken to the FBI office and questioned about the drugs. I told them that I didn't know anything about the drugs and that they were not mine. The agent told me that he knew that the drugs were not mine and that my boyfriend told him that the drugs were his. However, the agent felt like I knew where my boyfriend got the drugs. But I didn't and still don't. From lack of knowledge and having a boyfriend that I could not keep my eyes on 24 hours a day, the government punished me with a sentence of 15 years in prison.

I was found guilty by association. What society needs to realize is that I could have been anyone: their sister, daughter, mother, aunt, or grandmother. Everyone makes mistakes, and nobody knows what all goes on inside their home when they share it with someone else and are gone from home eleven hours a day.

I agree that everyone should know everything about whom they love and sleep with. But the truth is we don't. We tell each other what we want them to know. I always thought that I was protected by the Constitution. I thought that because of due process of law, no one could be convicted if there was even just a shadow of a doubt.

In my case the government assumed that because my boyfriend was a drug dealer, lived with me, and drove my car that I knew what he was doing. Therefore, I am guilty of the same crime, possession with the intent to distribute cocaine and cocaine base. But other than my boyfriend living with me, and driving my car, there was nothing to link me to his illegal activity. I was never seen by DEA agents with my boyfriend at any of the drug transactions, and there were no drug sales conducted out of my home. I never took any phone messages for him. The fact is he never conducted his illegal activities in my presence.

If I was suspected of assisting him in his illegal activity, why wasn't I put under the same surveillance as my boyfriend? Why was my name not on the search warrant to my apartment? Why was I not even mentioned in the search warrant? At my trial the DEA agent testified that they knew about me, but I was never put under surveillance because there was no need. They knew who the drug dealer was. And he is serving a 17-year prison sentence, two years more than I am! The criminal justice system thought that harsher sentences under the mandatory minimum sentencing would help win the war against drugs, but it isn't. All it is doing is locking up more people, and causing children to grow up without mothers and fathers. Society needs to realize that our legal system has failed. We all know that society cannot operate without law and order. But what all people need to realize is that the criminal justice system is a big business. Until society addresses the causes of why they are building more prisons and locking up more people, the legal system is going to continue to lock up even more people. First, the legal system has to admit that what has been tried has failed.

There are a lot of people incarcerated now with lengthy sentences and not because they were kingpins in big drug rings. Many were just friends, girlfriends, or wives of mid-level or street level drug dealers. Some people locked up were drug users and need to be in a drug rehab and not in prison for many years.

The criminal justice system is getting richer by incarcerating us for many years. It is costing the Bureau of Prison $25,000.00 a year to incarcerate me. And I am expected to be here 15 years. And who is paying for this? The taxpayers, and every new prison is costing middle class America plenty! America spends more money to incarcerate than they do to educate.

Right now the people who are least culpable of committing a crime are the ones doing the most time. Drug addicts are doing more time than their supplier instead of being in rehab to help them kick their addiction. Murderers, rapists, child abusers, and robbers are doing less time than first time nonviolent drug offenders. Because of mandatory minimum sentencing policies, people who have never been in any type of trouble are serving long prison sentences for non-violent crimes that they themselves did not actually commit.

It does not matter what your station in life is, or how much money you have acquired. Nobody is immune to crime. It can touch every social class. Drugs are a problem in America, but the mandatory, minimum sentences of ten years to life or 'three strikes you're out' are not the answer. How many billions of dollars of the taxpayers' money is America going to waste while the problem continues unaddressed and unsolved.

Marsha Cunningham 30862-077
PO Box 2149
Bryan, TX 77805

Posted by: jae | Jun 24, 2005 9:20:46 AM

more research...it's not just black women, huh...
Dawn Beverlin


Dawn with her daughter Conspiracy to Distribute Methamphetamine

Hi, my name is Dawn Beverlin. I am 35 years old and the mother of one daughter, whom I never get to see because I am so far away. I am a first-time, nonviolent drug offender enduring a 5-year mandatory minimum sentence for conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine.

I am a drug addict, and I started selling drugs to support my habit. I know I've made some bad choices in life, but I never dreamed that I would be taken away from my daughter. She was 15 when I was arrested, and we were using methamphetamine together. That's how far gone I was! I was sent to prison, and nothing was done for my daughter's addiction. She is now 18 years old and has been arrested herself for possession with intent. She too has started selling drugs to support her habit. The laws must be changed that send drug addicts to prison. I don't want my baby to go to prison. She needs help for her addiction, not prison. And though I'm told this is not my fault, I blame myself because I was not there when she needed me the most.

I was drinking and doing drugs when I was 16. I lived with an abusive boyfriend, shoplifted, got a couple of DWIs, and continued to abuse drugs and alcohol. I began using methamphetamine when I was 20, and I was smoking or snorting daily when I was arrested.

My codefendant and ex-boyfriend received 7 years supervised release because he knew the bigger people and snitched on them. Because I never met my other co-conspirators, I had no information about them. All I was doing was supporting my daily drug habit. I was purchasing methamphetamine from my boyfriend for the purpose of using the drug myself, or selling it. But my primary purpose at all times was to make sure that I had sufficient supply for my own use. I used all the funds I made to support my own drug habit. So, my boyfriend the dealer doesn't go to prison, and I get 5 years. Meanwhile, my daughter is following in my drug-addicted foot steps. I just hope I can get out of here and help my daughter before it's too late.

I want to thank all the people at the November Coalition for giving us hope for a better future when we will help our children with drug treatment programs rather than condemning them to a life of addiction and crime with the drug war.

Updated - 12/1/00
source: http://www.november.org/thewall/cases/beverlin-d/beverlin-d.html

Posted by: jae | Jun 24, 2005 9:24:44 AM

Jackie Quarterman

9 Years - Meth Conspiracy

Dear November Coalition:

I was excited, as many others, by the 10th District decision (U.S. v. Singleton) making it illegal for federal prosecutors to promise leniency to witnesses in exchange for testimony.

My two sons and I are victims of this ridiculous process; all three of us are currently in prison. I have a Master's Degree in Guidance and Counseling and have worked hard all my life, and was not a drug dealer, but was hounded into getting drugs for a guy who was not only allowed to go scott free, but paid too. I am enclosing a letter that my parents have sent to several Senators and Congressmen to kind of explain what happened to us.

What I'm writing to tell you, (and would love for you to print) is that it is not true that the "procedure is to work up the chain of command in the criminal group, offering immunity or plea bargains to lower-level participants in exchange for truthful testimony against their superiors" as stated by Mike Norton. In our case, the local DCI who had a vendetta against my son, used a guy busted with drugs to "set me up" and then convicted my sons of conspiracy with absolutely no proof of a conspiracy whatsoever.

They targeted us because of my son, and because they wanted to steal my property that I've worked all my life for. They did not even ask the informant who he obtained his drugs from, but used him to not only testify, but to create a case, period. Then, on top of that, they pit family members against family members. The only plea deal the prosecutor offered my other son and I was to testify against the son that they had the vendetta against. I told them that we 'd tell the truth, that my son had nothing to do with me getting the drugs for the narc, but they said that wasn't what the prosecutor wanted. I said, "So, he wants me to lie?" They also did not want the person I got the drugs from for them, because they wanted to blame my son for that. I told them who I got the drugs from, because I did'"t want them blaming my son, but they made no effort to find or arrest that person.

The whole process was a very rude awakening of how our federal judicial system works. There was prosecutorial misconduct and outrageous government misconduct throughout, with total disregard for justice, the Constitution, or human rights. Because we had a jury trial we were slammed with even more time (enhancements etc.) We are still in disbelief. We are in the process of our appeals right now, and pray that this new ruling will vindicate us.

Believe me, there are many others who my sons and I have met through our incarceration (since March 15, 1997) who are little "fish" in the drug game - they do not go after the "big" ones as stated - they are interested in statistics. I have met many women who got more time than the culpable boyfriend, son or grandson. It's ridiculous!

So many atrocities occurred in our case, that I would have to write a book to tell you all of them (which I am doing). The frightening thing is that it is occurring frequently, people "railroaded" by use of paid (in leniency and money) informants. Of course the US Attorneys are panicky, they might have to actually prove a case with real evidence for a change! And, of course they are using the McVeigh case as their typical scare tactic. First of all, there was plenty of other evidence against McVeigh, but if there weren't, even he shouldn't be found guilty on the sole testimony of a paid and/or rewarded informant.

Even the sentencing guidelines give leeway (the only leeway) to give informants (substantial assistance) ridiculously low sentences. It's common knowledge, that often the least culpable ends up with the most time. Our entire case was based on the paid informant, who even committed perjury, Judge Downes read him his rights for committing perjury on the stand; but, of course, nothing else was done to him for it.

I know numerous horror stories of people in prison - women and men, because my sons have heard many too. We thought we were the only ones that were victims of such a "miscarriage of justice" , but found that it is more common than not. Over 90% of federal cases take a plea, because they are threatened with outrageous sentences, and the Feds win 97.5% of their Cases. Now, doesn't something seem a little fishy?

A friend of mine who lived with a man who sold drugs (but had nothing to do with it), was badgered into taking a plea for 12 years, by being threatened with life in prison if she had a jury trial - the same prosecutor that we had (Patrick Crank). Our trial was held in Casper, Wyoming under Judge William Downes, and ended September 3, 1997.

I would be glad to give you much more information, or write an article myself if you are interested in printing the truth. Everything I say can be documented. I am not a liar (or a drug dealer, for that matter!)

Oh, by the way, my sons got sentenced to 6 1/2 and 16 1/2 years, and I got 9. In the federal system you only get 54 good days per year, and when you are sentenced to life - you do get life.

Persona Non Grata

By Jackie Quarterman, POW - 1998

Innocent until proven guilty is no longer true
It's guilty until convicted, once under the shoe

They instantly erase any previous good deeds
We're painted by them to be true demon seeds

As the Agent happily pointed the gun at my head
Whose the real psycho here? is all that I said

"Persona non grata", is what my lawyer said
You are no longer human; in fact, you are dead

Don't expect any favors, because none you'll receive
Far worse than a nightmare, they'll make you believe

Don't try to seek justice, you'll be punished far worse.
The justice you believe in is the prosecutor's curse

The shackles are no different than the old stockade
A humiliation so demeaning, the memory won't fade

Not only do they smile at the family's they destroy
Pitting mother against child gives them ultimate joy

"If you want to go free, just give us your son"
"I'd rather be dead, just give me your gun"

The Nazi experiments have nothing on them
Far more covert, and surely as grim

The "War on Drugs" is a guise to control and confuse
It's a war against the rights that they want us to lose

As the losses mount up and the prisons continue to fill
I sickeningly wonder how much more blood they'll spill

By far, the most debilitating loss I'd personally face
Are the years stolen from my child, that I can't replace

And the memory of the tears on his tortured face . . .

Posted by: jae | Jun 24, 2005 9:38:05 AM


I am a South African aspiring law student. I am also currently employed by the Department of Justice.

My understanding is that you are an expert in the field of legislative costing - what in your opinion ought one to study to be able to gain employment in the Legislative costing unit within a government department - would it be along the lines of a finance qualification or a legal qualification or alternatively a combination of the two.

Kind regards


Posted by: Anneline Govender | Jul 11, 2005 2:12:14 AM

Posting the personal statement of woman prisoners isn't a good way to establish the object ive facts of a case or to provide a factual basis for legislative change.

Sexism is sexism, even when it's "poor dear-ism"

Posted by: Not a lawyer | Jul 19, 2005 10:10:42 PM

I am writing to you to ask if you can tell me anything about what will possibly be the outcome of my scenero? I was raided/busted in Parkersburg West Virginia on Friday, May `3th and the drug enforcements and the detectives are literally scaring me and my associates (others arrested with me) to death. Everyday, I contemplate suicide, I dont know where my life is going nor for how long. Everyday, I hear a new story... I just want things to get over with so that I may have some sort of life, maybe, eventually...? I dont know anything about the law and or sentencings and/or ect. This is my first time to have ever broken the law and gotten in trouble. I got myself into a real mess without really realizing what the heck I was involving myself in. By the time I did, I could not get out, I tried. Mafia affiliated (however, that is all hush hush...) My case is on the internet and even has a movie with it. PLEASE if you can read my case and its scenero and send me any valid information, suggestions as to what is probably going to happen to me; I would greatly appreciate it!

Posted by: Gina | Sep 26, 2005 1:06:59 PM


I'm a sociologist and I teach a section on Drugs in American Society from a public health/social justice perspective. This being so, I have no useful fund of knowledge regarding drug enforcement methods or police procedure and I subsequently have a question regarding a particular circumstance. Recently, there appeared a two part expose' in my local paper about a 19yo crack/meth addict that reportedly found her addiction via her 28yo boyfriend/dealer. In the story, she, in her sad journey downward, was pulled over by police while driving with the boyfriend and was arrested for driving under the influence of marijuana as well as possession. Simultaneously, the boyfriend, not driving, had a gram of cocaine on his person, but was allowed to go free while she was prosecuted with jail and fines. Her mother, desperately attempting to protect her daughter from this fellow and his steady supply of drugs and domestic violence, questioned the duplicity of the event, but got nowhere with the police. My question is: If, as I suspect, the boyfriend is working as an informant, is it lawfull for police to ignore other illegal activity such a assault? I'm grateful for your response.
Joseph M. Verschaeve, Dept. of Sociology
Grand Valley State University
Allendale, Michigan 49401

Posted by: Joseph Verschaeve | Jul 22, 2006 8:54:53 AM

I am the mother of a 18 year old girl who has a boy friend that is a drug dealer , I have heard that this guy is selling crack and lots of it . My daughter has been staying with him at various hotels around the area , he takes my daughters car and drives to the city , I believe to buy his drugs to sell up here. She said he told her he is visiting family down there. He does not have a job and always has a lot of money to spend so you tell me where it is coming from . I know he is a dealer and so does everyone else , I am so afraid my daughter is going to end up in jail if this jerk gets caught transporting drugs from the city up here in her car even though she is not with him when he is doing this , and pretty much as no clue of what he is up to. I want to protect her , I thought of turning him in but am afraid I will get her in trouble too. What should I do?

Posted by: Kathy | Jan 28, 2007 2:33:59 AM

Hi cute girls,
am Alan 15 year old boy. i love good girl frnds. my email z [email protected]

lov Alan

Posted by: | Apr 2, 2007 2:27:14 AM

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Posted by: | Oct 14, 2008 11:03:13 AM

I am one of those women! I am being sentenced to two years in prison on November 18 2009. I was in the vehicle with my boyfriend while he was watching his brother to a drug deal! My car was in the shop and I needed a ride to get my daughter! I had nothing what so ever to do with this drug deal! Not only did I never see the drugs, they were never even in the vehicle with me! This is totally injustice! I was supposed to graduate from Med school on june 9th 2009 with an A in the class and perfect attendance! Now that is history because I was in the wrong place at the wrong time! I am totally appalled with our justice system!

Posted by: cassie lee | Oct 28, 2009 9:27:07 PM

what can I do to prevent a trespassing charge when a manager says you are not allowed on the property due to a crime that they had acused me of but had no evedence due to the fact I did not due it. Is it leagal for them to due so when there are alot of close friends as well as my children who live in these government funded buildings? How do I reasolve this situation.

Posted by: Tony Douglas | Mar 26, 2010 5:24:12 AM

In the war on drugs, an unintended casualty are women and their families.

Posted by: Best Bankruptcy Lawyer in San Antonio | Nov 19, 2013 10:14:56 PM

My daughter fell in love with this guy who was apparently into drug trafficking and he was on parole for a drug charge plus he has prior drug charges. They got the first guy dealing with an undercover cop, then her boyfriend dealing with an informant both had audio/video evidence. They also have recorded conversation between two other dealers. My daughter was sentenced to 30 years with no prior drug charges nor evidence against her. She had a court appointed attorney and was charged with conspiracy. Her boyfriend got 26 years. He had a paid attorney. Tell me how is it she was sentenced higher than the boyfriend and "Justice was Served"? I do not know if she was aware of what he was doing or not, what I do know is she was guilty of loving him and until now I didn't know that was a crime! How is this fair? Just goes to show that if one has money they get a better representation verses someone without money. In the mean time I may not ever see my daughter again due to my illness and the distance in which she has been sent. I only have her and my son and my world has been ripped apart.
Please tell me who I can write to view this case and bring justice to my daughter.

Posted by: Cynthia Miranov | Feb 7, 2016 4:29:18 PM

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