25 Years for Drug Trafficking, Only 20 for Murder?
Rape and murder carry shorter sentences than drug crimes in many Latin American countries, a new report shows.
In many Latin American countries, nonviolent drug offenses are punished with much harsher sentences than many violent crimes, like murder or rape. Penalties for drug crimes are examined in a report, Addicted to Punishment, by law research center Dejusticia. The report examines Brazil, Ecuador, Peru, Mexico, Colombia, Bolivia, and Argentina—and finds that drug penalties have increased in severity by 521% since 1950, when the average jail time for a drug-related offense was about 34 years. Today, these offenses carry an average maximum sentence of 141 years. In Ecuador, Bolivia and Mexico, even the minimum sentences for drug crimes are greater than those for homicide. And in all seven countries, drug trafficking can land an offender in jail for twice as long as rape—up to 88% more time in Peru. This puts strain on prison systems, absorbing funds that could be used elsewhere. The report argues for drug policy reform: “When comparing murder with drug trafficking, the logical assumption is that penalties for murder must be higher because it results in a concrete harm to a very important protected legal right—human life and personal integrity—while trafficking does not, in and of itself, lead to such a harm.” However, not all Latin American leaders are on board with such harsh drug policy; many have pushed for progressive drug laws, including Guatemalan President Otto Perez Molina, who has campaigned for legalization of all drugs. See how some of the sentences measure up below: