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The Consequences of Rising Female Incarceration Rates in Latin America


Women’s incarceration around the world is growing at an astounding and disproportionate rate. Between 2000 and 2017, the total female prison population worldwide increased by 53 percent, while that of men increased by only 19 percent. Punitive drug laws are the driving force behind women’s imprisonment: most women are behind bars for minor, nonviolent drug offenses. These women typically have little or no schooling, live in poverty, and are mothers. They usually enter into the drug trade out of economic necessity or because it is a family business, and some are coerced by intimate partners or abusive family members. 

Mass incarceration and overly punitive drug policies destroy women’s lives and thwart economic opportunities while harming their children, families, and communities. Moreover, these women are largely ignored in policymaking circles. At a recent panel discussion, representatives from two organizations—the Washington Office on Latin America and Equis Justicia para las Mujeres—discussed how they have been working together to advocate for incarcerated and formerly incarcerated women in Latin America.

Watch the video, or listen to audio of the event below, to learn more.

Women in Prison: The Devastating Impact of Rising Incarceration in the Americas (January 17, 2019)

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