by Rachel Bosler, 

As detailed in a recent article, Costa Rica has experienced success from a recent drug-law focusing on rehabilitation for women convicted of non-violent drugs offenses.  

Known as 77-bis, this initiative provides leniency for women convicted of smuggling drugs into prisons. Research done in the north of the country indicates that women compose 90% of those convicted of smuggling drugs into prisons, 95% of whom are single mothers. Many of these women are forced into crime by another family member or are in a vulnerable position where they struggle to provide for their families in a situation where economic opportunities are severely diminished.

Rather than serving a traditional jail sentence, under 77-bis women arrested for drugs offences work with lawyers to establish a new life plan which can include drug rehabilitation, job training, and a probationary period. Of the women given this alternative sentence, less than 2% have violated their parole or reoffended. Not only is this law revolutionary in a region known for a tough stance on drugs offenses, but it also reduced the prison population in Costa Rica by 1/5 when it first became effective.

Prisoners Abroad works with 75 female clients, 35 of whom are arrested for non-violent drugs offences. We have written about how arresting women who are coerced or forced into the drug smuggling industry does little to break the cycle of crime that holds up the industry.The specific needs of women throughout the prison process are often ignored and so an increased understanding of the unique positions and vulnerabilities that impact the lives of women around the world is critical for Prisoners Abroad to continue their work supporting women and their families throughout arrest, imprisonment, and rehabilitation.

Women continue to face gender-specific needs once released from prison and women compose around 10% of Prisoners Abroad’s resettlement clients. With a non-judgemental approach focused on rehabilitation and reintegration, we are working to enhance awareness of women’s specific needs in reintegrating into society. You can read more about the work we do to rehabilitate and reintegrate ex-offenders into society as part of our Resettlement Service