The Brazilian Congress is debating a controversial bill, authored by Rep. Osmar Terra (PMDB-RS), which among other setbacks proposes increasing the minimum penalty required from 5 to 8 years for drug-related crimes. History has shown that this is the wrong way to go -- and for evidence of this, it's instructive to look to the U.S., where draconian "mandatory minimum" sentencing led to an explosion in the country's prison population.

In the 1980s and '90s the U.S. relied on tougher sentencing laws and mandatory sentencing -- which did nothing to reduce drug abuse or drug prohibition-related violence, but contributed significantly to staggering government deficits as prison spending skyrocketed.

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