This briefing paper analyses the impact of drug policy on incarceration in São Paulo (Brazil), based on information collected among 1,040 people caught for having committed a drug-related offence (i.e. arrested in “flagrante delicto”) between 1st April and 30st June 2011.

The objective of the research was to use empirical data on those caught in the criminal justice system for drug traffic to demonstrate the fragile distinctions between drug users and traffickers, provide information on how police officers deal with drug-related offences, and analyse how the judiciary effectively responds to these crimes (at least in the initial phases of the criminal justice process). This research is expected to inform and assess some of the consequences of the current Brazilian drug policy, taking into account its impacts on prisoners’ rights and on the criminal justice system as a whole.

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