Marne L. Lenox


Neutralizing the Gendered Collateral Consequences of the War on Drugs

Marne L. Lenox

As a result of the War on Drugs, women are disproportionately impacted by the civil sanctions resulting from felony drug convictions. While legislation imposing collateral consequences of felony drug convictions does not explicitly discriminate against women, these laws reflect sex-based institutional biases and are thereby unequal in effect. While some statutes permit a disparate impact theory of sex discrimination, there exists no statutory protection for women in the context of collateral consequences. And because the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment does not adequately protect against gender-neutral legislation that adversely affects women, raising a constitutional claim is not a viable alternative to statutory protection. In response, this Note sets forth two separate—constitutionally sound—proposals for legislative reform. First, I suggest that in light of historic sex discrimination, a remedial sex-based exemption from penalties imposed by collateral consequences is in order. In recognition of the Court’s distaste for sex-based legislation, however, I alternatively recommend that Congress exempt from collateral penalties ex-offenders who serve as the primary caretakers of their children.