Chile has one of the highest incarceration rates in Latin America, with women making up 7.5% of the prison population. However, according to Forensic Psychologist Rodrigo Pantoja, whereas men normally commit ‘selfish’ crimes to achieve status, power and domination, women are normally in prison for ‘selfless’ crimes committed to help feed their families or simply to get by. Even so, as with all those who have been incarcerated, women prisoners face many challenges finding employment and reintegrating into society after their sentences, and, as a result, 4 out of 10 women will reoffend.
Recognizing the important gender differences between the male and female prison populations, the San Joaquín Women’s Prison in Santiago, Chile, has pioneered specialized social reintegration programs to decrease the recidivism rate and better support women as they transition back into society. Their model uses entrepreneurship as a tool: incarcerated women are provided with seed capital, coupled with vocational and financial training, to start small enterprises whilst in prison, and are then aided with micro-credit loans to grow their businesses once they have been released. Through this unique approach, women are given the necessary support to become small business owners during and after their prison sentences, which not only provides greater opportunities to the beneficiaries of the program, but also increases security for the whole country.