Addressing the Global Crisis of Mass Incarceration of Women: Options for Drug Policy Reform During COVID-19

THURSDAY, MAY 20, 2021. 8:10 A.M. EST

The Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA), the Association for Women’s Rights in Development (AWID), the Center for Legal and Social Studies (CELS), the International Drug Policy Consortium (IDPC), Penal Reform International (PRI), and Dejusticia cordially invite you to the 30th Session of the Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice side event:

Addressing the Global Crisis of Mass Incarceration of Women: 

Options for Drug Policy Reform During COVID-19 

Globally, 20 percent of people incarcerated are deprived of their liberty for drug offenses—a proportion that rises to 35 percent for women in prison. Punitive drug policies are a major driver of women’s incarceration, in particular in Latin America and Asia, and have contributed to prison overcrowding in many parts of the world. The COVID-19 pandemic has underscored how the criminal legal system is unable to protect the health and rights of women deprived of liberty. As of today, at least 538,000 people in prison have tested positive for COVID-19, and at least 3,900 have died from it. Transmission rates are five times higher than amongst the general population. 

As the United Nations Rules for the Treatment of Women Prisoners and Non-Custodial Measures for Women Offenders (the “Bangkok Rules”) reached their 10-year mark in December 2020, it is time to rethink the role of the criminal legal system in responses to drugs. This side event will discuss the various issues associated with the mass incarceration of women for drug offenses, and propose a series of recommendations for reform, from a gender and feminist perspective. 

Event Details: 

Thursday, May 20, 2021

8:10 a.m. – 9:00 a.m. EDT (Washington, D.C.)

14:10 – 15:00 CET (Vienna)


Leigh Toomey

Chair, UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention

Triona Lenihan

Policy and International Advocacy Manager, PRI

Justine Moore

Director of Training, National Council for Incarcerated and Formerly Incarcerated Women and Girls 

Fenya Fischler

Resourcing Feminist Movements Coordinator, AWID 


Luciana Pol

Senior Fellow in Security Policy, CELS