"Women often suffer serious long-term consequences of incarceration that affect several aspects of their lives. In most instances, on the basis of gender neutral policies and practices, women are subject to the same correctional procedures as are men, despite the fact that correctional services and procedures are designed for men.135 Both drug use and incarceration carry stigma for both men and women, but the degree of stigma is much greater for women and may be additive, because of gender-based stereotypes that hold women to different standards.136 For example, women using drugs or being involved in criminal activity are seen as contravening the traditional role of mothers and care givers.137 Therefore a formerly incarcerated woman may be treated poorly by others, denied access to housing or employment because of her criminal history, or internalize feelings of worthlessness because of the lowered expectations of those around her.

"Women in prison may also have a long history of abuse and mental health issues. For example, women charged with drug-related offences often suffer from substance use disorders, psychiatric disorders and a history of physical and sexual abuse.138 Also, research shows that many women arrested for drug-related offences, in particular drug trafficking, have been victims of trafficking in persons or sex trafficking and forced to carry drugs.139, 140 However, while in prison, few women are provided with the healthcare services necessary to address their drug use disorders, other co-morbidities or reproductive health issues. In addition, women prisoners may suffer particular emotional and mental health consequences resulting from the disruption of family ties, as they are more likely to be incarcerated a greater distance from home than are men, which has a particularly harmful impact on mothers and their prospects of resettlement.141, 142, 143, 144

"Moreover, incarcerated women do not generally receive sufficient support to prepare for their return to their families, intimate partners and the community. Not only do women have fewer opportunities to access education, work and training programmes in prison than do men, but also the skills they learn in prison are mainly recreational and are based on gender stereotypes and thus often fail to provide women with financial remuneration and do not necessarily provide them with skills that are suitable for the current job market upon their release.146, 147 Upon release, women face stigma in the community because of their drug use and incarceration, resulting in an even greater challenge for them to access the health-care and social services that they need, such as housing and employment services. They may therefore end up in a situation of social isolation and social exclusion, leaving them to continue living in circumstances of social and economic disadvantage and inequality. In particular, incarcerated women re-entering the community also need to navigate between both the relationships that put them at risk for either drug use or criminality and the relationships that they will rely on for support after their release. This is complicated by the fact that the only relationships that they may have could have been those contributing, in the first place, to their problems, including drug use, mental health issues or criminality.148"


World Drug Report 2020. Booklet Six: Other Drug Policy Issues. June 2020. United Nations publication, Sales No. E.20.XI.6).