Across the Americas, repressive drug policies make easy targets of small-scale dealers and people who use drugs, while doing little to thwart large-scale traffickers or organized crime. At the same time, harsh drug policies have done little to curb the production, trafficking, and consumption of illicit drugs.
Instead, the war on drugs has had devastating consequences for individuals and communities alike, particularly for those already on the margins of society, including people living in poverty, sex workers, and racial and ethnic minorities.
In Latin America, some of the most perverse consequences of the drug war have been borne by women, many of whom are caught in a cycle of poverty or addiction that motivates their involvement in the small-scale sale or transport of drugs. Rarely are women imprisoned for large-scale drug trafficking offenses.
Their low-level involvement in the drug trade often comes at extremely high risk—if caught and convicted, they face disproportionately long sentences for their nonviolent crimes. Such penalties are ruinous not only to the women, but also to the families they struggle to support.
A recent photo essay published by the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA) vividly illustrates this cruel reality.
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