By Caroline Buhse and Coletta A. Youngers
On July 16, 2015, WOLA and the Open Society Foundations (OSF) convened a Workshop on the Mass Incarceration of Women Across the Americas, bringing together experts and advocates from Latin America and the United States. At the workshop, which was the first of its kind, participants shared experiences, information, and analysis on policies that result in the mass incarceration of women for low-level drug offenses.
Women across the Americas are being incarcerated for minor, non-violent, drug-related crimes at an alarming rate. Research shows that in Argentina, Brazil and Costa Rica, more than 60 percent of the female prison population is there for drug offenses. In the case of Ecuador, it is more than 80 percent. The vast majority of these women have children and many are single parents. The incarceration of mothers and caregivers in particular can have devastating consequences for themselves, their families, and their communities.
The workshop sought to build bridges between U.S. and Latin American activists and explore options for joint advocacy efforts, with a particular focus on the UN General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS) on Drugs, which will take place in April 2016.
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