Report: The Hidden Costs of House Arrest for Women in Latin America

Imposing house arrest without guaranteeing access to fundamental human rights, particularly in low-income homes, can be as punitive as imprisonment.

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced governments all around the Americas to take initiatives against overpopulation in detention centers. In many cases, house arrest was adopted as an alternative in order to decrease the risk of outbreaks and mass contamination. However, the joint report Imprisoned at Home: Women Under House Arrest in Latin America shows that this type of detention, although less restrictive than incarceration, still constitutes a form of deprivation of liberty and is one of the most burdensome alternatives for the person who receives it.

The study focuses on the impacts of house arrest on women in Latin America and demonstrates the need for substitutes for incarceration with a particular focus on the female population. In the last two decades, the population of women deprived of liberty in the region has increased and most of them share a background of poverty and social exclusion. In different testimonies, they relate how the challenges related to house arrest are generally invisible: one woman in labor was told that she had to wait for the court’s authorization to go to the hospital, others comment that at least in prisons they had enough to eat.

This report is the result of a collaboration between human rights organizations including the Centro de Estudios Legales y Sociales (CELS), the International Consortium on Drug Policy (IDPC), Dejusticia, Equis: Justice for Women, the Institute of Legal Investigations of the Autonomous University of Chiapas, the Pro Bono Institute, the Penitentiary Office of the Nation of Argentina and the Washington Office for Latin American Affairs (WOLA).