Uruguay’s senate voted today (10 December) to approve the world’s first national legal framework regulating the cultivation, trade and consumption of cannabis for medical, industrial as well as recreational purposes.
The mandatory-sentencing craze that drove up the prison population tenfold, pushing state corrections costs to bankrupting levels, was rooted in New York’s infamous Rockefeller drug laws. These laws, which mandated lengthy sentences for nonviolent, first-time offenders, were approved 40 years ago next month. They did little to curtail drug use in New York or in other states that mimicked them, while they filled prisons to bursting with nonviolent addicts.
Criminalisation of drug users, excessive levels of imprisonment, and punitive sentencing practices, including mandatory sentencing, the death penalty and enforced ‘drug detention centres’, are some of the unintended negative consequences of the 50 year ‘war on drugs’, a policy with direct impact on the vulnerable, poor and socially excluded groups, including ethnic minorities and women. This PRI briefing paper discusses these consequences in detail and sets out what parliamentarians can do about it.
Jorge Parra Norato, Rodrigo Uprimny Yepes, Diana Esther Guzmán
21 January 2013
This report reveals the average maximum sentence for a drug offense rose from 34 years in prison in 1950 to 141 years today and in three countries surveyed, drug trafficking was subject to longer maximum and minimum penalties than murder.