Globally, 20% of people incarcerated are deprived of their liberty for drug offences – a proportion that rises to 35% 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.