Across Latin America, the effects of disproportionate punishment for low-level, non-violent drug offenses are particularly severe for women. To shed light on this issue, WOLA has created a photo essay to show the human cost of current drug policies in the Americas. The photos tell the stories of four women, each providing a unique insight into the deeply troubling cycle of poverty, low-level involvement, imprisonment, and recidivism into which women are too often pushed.
Over 90 percent of the women incarcerated at Costa Rica’s Buen Pastor prison have more than three children. Providing for those children while they are behind bars can prove difficult, if not impossible. The following women are all serving reduced sentences there for having admitted their involvement in the drug market. Their stories were chosen because they are representative of the profiles often seen in women incarcerated across the hemisphere.
Mother Behind Bars
Lidieth, a 45-year-old mother of four, says she was arrested for selling small quantities of crack and cocaine from her home in order to feed her family. Two of her adult children were implicated in the household business and sent to prison as well. Even from behind bars, she continues to care for her two youngest children, one of which she fears is being abused at home. She is currently serving a plea-bargained sentence of five years and four months.