As part of the debate on violence reduction in Brazil, NGO Sou da Paz (I’m for Peace) Institute launched a campaign, which puts forward alternative penalties for carrying a small amount of drugs.
On its website, the institute presents data showing that working at educational institutions, for instance, is a better punishment for both society and those who commit a crime for the first time without resorting to violence.
According to the NGO, the adoption of sentences like community work, fines, and the use of electronic tagging does not depend on legislation changes, as they are already provided for by Brazil’s Criminal Law.
Moreover, the 20 courts spread throughout the country dedicated to this sort of penalty attest to its preparedness. For Sou da Paz Coordinator, Bruno Langeani, “both judges and the population should start backing these alternatives.”
Jurist Luiz Flávio Gomes says that punishments, when educational in its character, are more effective in reforming individuals. He argues that Brazil ranks third in order of prison population, without any reduction in violence, and adds that imprisonment should be an action considered last.
“A campaign like this could alleviate the crisis in the prison system, and, even better, reform people,” he states.
The campaign’s organizers believe alternative sentences will help ease prison overcrowding. A survey conducted in São Paulo by Sou da Paz reveals that 97% of inmates arrested for carrying drugs did not have any weapons.
Among those with marijuana, 53% were in possession of 10 to 100 grams, and only 6.7% held over 1kg. As for those caught with cocaine, figures float from 52.6% to 4.58% respectively.
Gomes claims these detainees end up serving as soldiers in the hands of drug lords inside the facility. These people, he argues, can have their lives changed through education and work.
“A prison doesn’t educate. On the contrary. The adoption of other measures would improve the penitentiary system considerably.”
The goal of Sou da Paz is to contribute to effecting security policies and help contain violence. Among their principles behind their work are democracy, social justice, and human rights.
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