Data from the war on low-level drug offenders.
In Ecuador, an impoverished woman plans to sell 335 grams of a drug she cannot even identify. She’s caught. Her sentence? Eight years in prison. In Mexico, a woman finds heroin planted in her suitcase. Her punishment? Twenty-two years behind bars. In Bolivia, a man stomps coca, the first step in the process to make cocaine. His penalty? Ten years.
Mexico, Bolivia, and Ecuador are nations where the minimum and maximum penalties for drug traffickers are longer than those given to murderers.
For years, Latin American governments have been dishing out increasingly harsh punishments to people convicted of drug-related crimes, including those convicted of low-level offenses—possession of, say, 50 grams of marijuana. While anecdotal evidence has often pointed toward this pattern, a new study conducted by Dejusticia, a Colombian research and advocacy group, documents this trend and comes to a harsh conclusion: “In three of the seven countries surveyed, drug trafficking garnered longer maximum and minimum penalties than murder.” In all countries studied, “the maximum penalty for drug trafficking is nearly equal to or, in most cases, greater than the maximum for rape.”
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