Skip to content

Photo: Sonny Abesamis

Drug crimes and prison overdose in Colombia

This research, carried out by Dejusticia and the Research Consortium on Drugs and the Law, assesses the impact of drug policy on the prison system and recommends, among other measures, to decriminalize the possession of a personal dose.


Imprisonment for drug offenses is contributing to the country’s overcrowding crisis, which is 50 percent. In addition, it has become a direct threat to the rights of those deprived of liberty. This is the conclusion of the research “Drug crimes and prison overdose in Colombia”, carried out by the Research Consortium on Drugs and the Law (CEDD) and Dejusticia.

Between 2005 and 2014 in Colombia, more than 720 thousand people were captured for drug trafficking, manufacturing or possession, which is equivalent to capturing nine people every hour or 80 thousand people per year. Although not all cases become judicialized, the pressure of drug policy on the penitentiary system is evident. While between 2000 and 2015 the general population of the country increased by 19%, the prison population increased by 141% and the population in prison for drug offenses increased by 289%. The penalties established for drug offenses approximate those of serious crimes such as homicide or sexual violence.

Drug policy based on the persecution of users and other weak links in the broader chain has resulted in a disproportionate burden on the most vulnerable. And, on the other hand, it has not impacted the big bosses or the criminal organizations that control the networks of production, traffic and distribution.

The war on drugs has established a wide range of behavior as crimes, without considering the economic and social contexts, and without allowing a broad debate on the best responses that each society could take against this phenomenon. For this reason, we propose to decriminalize the possession of a personal dose and to cease all kinds of persecution of consumers, to rationalize the use of prison, to carry out the necessary reforms to allow those who commit minor and non-violent drug offenses not to go to jail, and implement alternatives to imprisonment.

This research welcomes a deep reflection and reform in the way that drug control laws are applied in Colombia, in order to have balanced and effective policies.

Find the entire book here

Powered by swapps
Scroll To Top