Life Sentences: Denying Welfare Benefits To Women Convicted Of Drug Offenses

This report is the first national analysis documenting the impact of the lifetime welfare ban on women and their children in the United States. Presently, 42 states are enforcing the ban in full or in part. We find that an estimated 92,000 women are affected by the ban in the 23 states for which we were able to obtain data. Since the application of the lifetime welfare ban only began in 1996, the number of women affected will increase substantially in the coming years.

The ban also currently places over 135,000 children in these states at risk of neglect and involvement with the criminal justice system due to the prospect of reduced family income support. Further, there are significant potential societal costs—in the areas of criminal justice, health, and child welfare—associated with the ban.