WOLA: Advocacy for Human Rights in the Americas
9 Jun 2023 | News

First International Convening of Formerly Incarcerated Women

A historic international convening took place from May 2 to 4, 2023, when more than 60 formerly incarcerated women from 17 countries around the world came together in Bogotá, Colombia in a new international network that is seeking to build global solidarity, support the rights of women in prison and upon their release, and elevate the voices, experiences and ideas of women who have been deprived of liberty.

The creation of the International Network of Formerly Incarcerated Women was spurred in part by the alarming rise in the number of women behind bars around the world. The most recent edition of the World Female Imprisonment List shows that the number of women and girls in detention worldwide increased by 60 percent since 2000, while that of men has risen by around 22 percent. While the factors leading to women’s incarceration vary by country, in Latin America, the continued rise in women’s incarceration is driven in large part by punitive drug laws and “mano dura” policies that disproportionately impact women.

Colombia dramatically illustrates these trends; however, it is taking bold actions to address the country’s prison crisis. On International Women’s Day, March 8, President Gustavo Petro signed a ground-breaking law to provide alternatives to incarceration for women who are single heads of households and living in situations of vulnerability.

The first-ever international convening of formerly incarcerated women concluded with a public event, accompanied by the Colombian Ministry of Justice and the Law, the Colombian NGOs, Dejusticia and Mujeres Libres, the National Council for Incarcerated and Formerly Incarcerated Women and Girls, and the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA). The event was moderated by Diana Ester Guzmán, Executive Director of Dejusticia, and speakers included:

• Angela Y. Davis, feminist, activist, and Professor at the University of California, Santa Cruz (via video)

• Colombian Senators, María José Pizarro Rodríguez and Jahel Quiroga Carrillo

• Representatives of the International Network of Formerly Incarcerated Women from around the world

• Colombian Minister of Justice and the Law, Néstor Iván Osuna Patiño, and Vice Minister Camilo Eduardo Umaña Hernández

• Claudia Cardona, Corporación Mujeres Libres Colombia

You can watch the entire event below or on our YouTube page