Could drug decriminalization save Brazil’s slums?


in Drug Legalisation,Global Policy News,Policy

Could drug decriminalization save Brazil’s slums?

Posted by Max Fisher on October 24, 2012 at 3:04 pm

Brazilian troops patrol a shantytown in Rio de Janeiro. (CHRISTOPHE SIMON/AFP/Getty Images)

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Brazil has been struggling with drug violence for years. The problem got so bad that the country passed a law in 2006 to distinguish between dealers and users in handing out sentences, meant to reduce the overwhelming pressure on the justice and jail systems and to better single out dealers. But since then, the number of Brazilians in prison for drug charges has more than doubled and its total prison population has grown by 37 percent, according to official statistics.

Now, a prominent Brazilian think tank called the Igrapé Institute has released a surprising list of policy proposals to address the problem. The think tank had organized a special committee called Pense Livre (“think free” in Portuguese) to rethink the country’s drug policy. Its four-point plan, translated by the folks at Riorealblog and flagged today by GlobalVoices, starts with drug decriminalization.

The report doesn’t seem to argue that these policies would reduce drug use, which is high in Brazil. Rather, it argues that they would reduce violence related to drug use, as well as the need for expensive and burdensome incarceration and policing, which have helped to marginalize poor and minority communities, particularly in the city’s infamous slums.

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