Since the 1990s, when mandatory sentences for drug related crimes were first imposed, Blacks and Hispanics have been disproportionately given lengthier prison terms. Latinas have been especially affected by the harsh consequences of the war on drugs, as they have been detained in proportionally larger numbers. In this article, using the case of Yraida Guanipa, I explore the effects of the war on drugs on a Latina. Yraida Guanipa was the mother of two boys, aged 4 and 3 when she was sentenced in 1998 to 151 months even though she was a first-time non-violent offender. The magnitude of her sentence particularly affected her role as mother of two very young children. During five years (1998 – 2003) out of her 13-year detention, Yraida wrote to the late Illinois Senator Paul Simon (1928 – 2003). The close textual analysis of her letters provides a unique perspective on the toll of the war of drugs. Yraida's correspondence shows how she fiercely negotiated motherhood and became an activist for prison reform.

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