WOLA: Advocacy for Human Rights in the Americas

(C/o WOLA)

1 Nov 2019 | Commentary

Summary of Sessions: First Workshop of Women from the Americas Who Have Been in Prison “Women Resisting, Bringing Down the Bars”

On July 17-18, 2019, an event entitled “Women Resisting, Bringing Down the Bars: First Workshop of Women from the Americas Who Have Been in Prison” was held in Bogota, Colombia. Sixty-six people participated, including 45 formerly incarcerated women, family members, and representatives of organizations that support them from Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, El Salvador, Mexico, and the United States. The event was organized by Mujeres Libres (Colombia), Corporación Humanas (Colombia) and the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA, United States). 

The workshop’s overall objective was to lay the foundations for creating a regional network of women from the Americas who have been in prison. Its specific objectives were to: 

  • Learn about the situation of women from the Americas who have been in prison.
  • Identify the commonalities among women from the Americas who have been in prison in order to advocate for abolishing prison sentences for women.
  • Share strategies for organizing and resistance employed by women from the Americas who have been in prison.
  • Formulate a joint statement.
  • Build strategies to advance national and international work.

The ample research and testimonies shared in the workshop provided stark evidence that criminal justice systems across the Americas are based on a culture of punishment which has been extremely detrimental to women, their families and their communities, while also failing to provide the resources and tools for women to rebuild their lives when leaving prison. Current incarceration policies criminalize poverty, violate women’s rights, and reinforce cycles of violence.

The workshop brought together women who live far from each other but who nonetheless forged close ties due to their shared experiences inside and outside prison. Participants said they felt empowered and inspired by these commonalities, which revealed the broader failures of the criminal justice system throughout the Americas. By providing an opportunity for women to connect, debate and give each other advice, this regional workshop represented an important step toward the creation of a movement led by and for women who have been in prison and for those who continue to be deprived of their liberty in the Americas. 

The full report for the workshop sessions includes details of what was discussed during the two days. To read the full report click on the button below.

Summary of the Workshop Sessions