Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Incarceration for drug crimes around the region - new studies (Nov. 3, 2015)

The Mexican Colectivo de Estudios Drogas y Derecho (CEDD) released a series of studies that show an increase in widespread incarceration for non-violent drug crimes around the region. The reports present evidence that the drug offense prison population has increased more than that of the general prison population, said Catalina Pérez Correa, the project's coordinator. 

In Colombia, for example, the percentage of people imprisoned for drug related crimes quadrupled in the past 14 years, while in Brazil it rose 320 percent between 2005 and 2012, compared to a "mere" 51 percent increase in the general jail population. In Mexico the proportion rose 1,200 percent between 2006 and 2014.

"In most countries in Latin America that we studied, one in five people in prison is there for drug crimes," said Alejandro Corda, a CEDD investigator in Argentina. "Nonetheless, this does not have any impact on the drug business, given that the people in prison for drug crimes are minor trafficking actors, fungible and in situations of vulnerability."

The increased rates of incarceration come at a high human cost, both for those who are jailed and their families. And those affected are often very low level actors.

The studies in more detail:

  • Mitigating punitive addiction: Alternatives to incarceration for drug crimes, by Rodrigo Uprimny, Sergio Raúl Chaparro, Luis Felipe Cruz, Catalina Pérez Correa, Karen Silva, Gianella Bardazano and Jorge Paladines. The study summarizes the debate over alternatives to incarceration for minor drug crimes in the region, and makes the case that it's urgent to implement such policies.
  • Women and drug crime incarceration, by Luciana Boiteux. Incarceration as a response to minor drug crimes not only affects the women who are trapped by the system, but also their families, children and dependents.

Tired of reading? Check out these videos on the human cost of the drug war, featuring people who have spent years in prison enduring harsh sentences that are disproportionate to the crimes they committed. 

News Briefs

  • Uruguay aims to produce between six and 10 tons of pot a year for local use, reports AFP. The state-produced drug would be sold in pharmacies to registered users at $1.40 a gram, according to Milton Romani, the National Drug Board chief.
  • El País has an interview with Armando Santacruz of the NGO México Unido contra la Delincuencia which is behind the case for marijuana legalization currently under consideration in the country's Supreme Court (see last Thursday's post.) "The worst thing that can happen with a dangerous substance is for the State to abdicate its responsibility and leave its control in the hands of organized crime," he says
  • Haitians will have to wait till Thursday for the results of Oct. 25th's presidential elections. The Provisional Electoral Council announced the delay yesterday, in order to take into account complaints of fraud received since the polls, reports the Miami Herald. About 800 workers and 28 lawyers have been working over the past nine days to tabulate votes from 13,275 voting stations. As of yesterday they had treated 95 percent of the votes.
  • Colombia is facing a difficult challenge as a peace according with the FARC nears: how to help citizens and fighters on both sides of the conflict bury the hatchet and move on. The Miami Herald has a feature on a pineapple farm in eastern Colombia where demobilized FARC and paramilitary fighters work together, bonded by their isolation from the rest of Colombian society.
  • The example of Guatemala -- with the wave of indignation that swept out one corrupt administration only to usher in an ostensibly outsider president backed by the same businessmen who collaborated with the last one -- is important for Latin America, argues Pedro Abramovay in Open Democracy (previously published in Asuntos del Sur). While the past decades have seen important progress in transparency policies and new kinds of citizen mobilization that makes demands independent of traditional political parties, this in-and-of-itself is not enough to single handedly alter the political culture of corruption in the region. "Demonstrations fired by righteous indignation against corruption are essential for political change. But they are not sufficient. If there is not a determined effort to carry through a true transformation of the political culture, to radically change how campaigns are financed, and to create new forms of citizen engagement in politics, these mobilizations could be captured by profiteers who promise change, so that everything remains the same," he writes.
  • Brazil's biggest oil union began a strike on Sunday to protest sales of Petrobras assets, which they say will lead to thousands of layoffs, reports the Wall Street Journal.
  • Manuel Torres, in a piece in El Confidencial, takes a moment to mourn the passing of the newspaper Tiempo in Honduras last week. (See last Wednesday's briefs.) The paper closed after 44 years, when members of its owning family, the Rosenthals, were accused by the U.S. Treasury of laundering money for some of the largest Central American drug syndicates through U.S. accounts. (See Oct. 8th's post.) Torres goes over the long history of the paper, its celebrated editor-in-chief Manuel Gamero and its role in supporting the development of Honduran democracy.
  • A new law in Argentina will require 8 percent of the countries electricity to be generated from renewable sources by 2017, increasing to 20 percent by 2020. The target is ambitious, considering that currently only 1 percent of the country's energy is generated this way, reports La Nación (republished by The Guardian).
  • The Guardian has an in-depth piece on Mexico's groundbreaking soda tax that will thrill policy buffs looking for an interesting case-study. (See last Wednesday's briefs.) Mexicans consume more soda than most other places in the world, and pay a steep price in public health for their love affair with sugary drinks: it has by far the world's highest death rate from chronic diseases caused by consumption of sugary drinks.
  • Sprint became the second U.S. carrier able to provide roaming services in Cuba, after signing an agreement with the island's telecommunications company yesterday, reports the Miami Herald. A start date for the service will be announced soon.
  • Red light districts never fail to make for titillating material: The Los Angeles Times reports on the Tijuana sex business, where U.S. and Mexican customers mingle in the city's "zona de tolerancia."
  • Neuromarketing -- or neuropolitics -- seeks to use facial coding, biofeedback and brain imaging to hone political messages to voters. For example, in Mexico President Enrique Peña Nieto and the PRI employed tools to measure voters' brain waves, skin arousal, heart rates and facial expressions during the 2012 presidential campaign, reports the New York Times.

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