By Adam Schaffer
After decades of implementing—and exporting—“tough on crime” policies that prioritize arrest and incarceration for even minor drug offenses, the United States is reconsidering its criminal justice system. These reforms should be noted in Latin America, a new report released today argues, as the region faces surging prison populations driven in part by draconian U.S.-sponsored policies.
From 1973 to 2009, the total U.S. prison population increased over seven-fold as more low-level offenders were incarcerated—instead of receiving non-prison punishments—and a range of offenses garnered significantly longer sentences. Much of the change came as part of the “War on Drugs,” and arrest and incarceration rates for drug offenses saw a particularly marked rise. From 1980 to 2010, the imprisonment rate for drug crimes grew from 15 per 100,000 to 143 per 100,000; a nearly ten-fold increase.
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