Drug-dealing moms avoid prison time

Updated: 2016-01-08 07:56

By Xinhua in Nanjing(China Daily)

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Zhi Hui, 35, has become the unlikely poster child for women dealing drugs in Nanjing after she evaded prison five times on grounds that she was a mother.

Zhi, a single mother of three, was pregnant with her first son when she was caught in 2011 for possession of 150 grams of methamphetamine and heroin.

"The police said I could post bail and stay at home. Then, after a year, I accidentally became pregnant again. I needed to make money to raise my children, so I had a third baby to stay away from jail and sustain my drug business," Zhi said in an interview with Xinhua.

She is well known among Nanjing's drug dealers.

"Several major drug dealers confessed that they have encouraged their female friends to learn from Zhi, to have babies to avoid jail," said Wei Yuqing, a police officer in Gulou district who investigated Zhi's crimes.

After noting Zhi's success evading police, other female drug dealers followed in her footsteps.

In 2014, eight drug-dealing mothers were arrested and 25.9 kilograms of drugs were confiscated.

"These drug-dealing women seem undeterred. Every time they are caught, a larger amount of drugs is found," said Ji Shengzhi, director of the anti-drug squad of the Nanjing Police.

Chinese law stipulates that women who are pregnant or breast-feeding may post bail instead of serving a jail sentence. Though the law also says repeat offenders will be imprisoned, weak social services for children have made police reluctant to send mothers to jail.

"The humanitarian leeway has been used by drug traffickers as a loophole. They use their children to defy legal punishment," Ji said.

"Zhi was required to report during bail, but she made efforts to skirt monitoring and expand her drug business," Wei said.

Shielded by her motherhood status, she became a drug empress with a hand in about 20 percent of the city's drug sales, Wei said.

But in March, she was caught carrying 15.7 kilograms of meth and heroin. Authorities finally had enough, and she is now awaiting sentencing.

"These drug-dealing moms must be punished. Otherwise, more people will follow suit," said Ji.

A nationwide regulation put in place last year to provide better social services for the children of offenders may have paved the way for Zhi's eventual incarceration.

The policy dictates drug addicts, traffickers, gamblers, sex offenders and child abusers will be stripped of guardianship. Civil affairs departments are required to establish institutions to take interim custody of the children and find foster families for them.

However, the work has been impeded by a shortage of venues, funds and manpower.

In Nanjing's Qinhuai district, several children whose parents were stripped of guardianship were forced to live in senior care centers.

Nanjing has asked its social service centers to provide help for minors who are vagrants, beggars, left-behind or victims of abuse, said Zhou Xinhua, director of social services at the Nanjing Civil Affairs Bureau.

But these organizations also have difficulty keeping them for an extended period, he said.