Stop the Cruel Mass Incarceration of Youth

Target: Mr. Alexandre de Moraes, Brazil’s Minister of Justice

Goal: Repeal and replace the unjust Brazilian National Drugs Law, “Lei de Drogas.”

Brazil has been in a steady process of mass incarceration of its poor and young adults. Since 1990, the country has witnessed a 483% increase in the prison population, and the prison system is overpopulated in each of its 26 states. Brazil has seen the horrific results of damaging incarceration policies, and laws should be changed if the country expects any improvement in this dark scenario.

Brazil has the fourth largest prison population in the world, preceded by the U.S., China, and Russia. Most of the detainees are young (18-29 years old) and black, with only a basic level of formal education (up to middle school degree). Increasing numbers of arrests and detentions have not been associated with decreasing the rate of violence. Rather, families have been torn apart, and the prospect for the youngest, poor, black generations is only following the same vicious cycle of social exclusion.

According to Human Rights Watch, the dramatic increase in the prison population is related to the current Brazilian National Drugs Law. The law’s deficient language allows minor infractions to be considered criminal offenses. For example, though the document suggests the replacement of prison sentences for community service in some cases, flaws and ambiguities on the letter of the law are resulting in users being treated like drug dealers and condemned to harsh sentences.

In the first weeks of 2017, violent prison riots and subsequent carnage shook and then shocked Brazil. Once again, riots exposed the precarious situation in state prisons. Almost 40% of the prison population is still waiting for trial. There are not enough educational and work programs that allow prisoners to come back to a productive social and professional life after their sentences. Health and sanitary conditions in prisons are precarious. Instead of filling up prisons, militarizing or privatizing them, the state should evaluate what leads to imprisonment. Repeal and replacement of “Lei de Drogas” (Brazilian National Drugs Law) is, therefore, the best approach to addressing the crisis in the prison industrial system. Sign the petition favoring this long-term solution and tell the Brazilian government it is time to attack the roots of the problem.


Dear Mr. Alexandre de Moraes,

Brazilian people and the entire world have watched shocking prison riots in the first weeks of 2017. Riots exposed in a saddening way the process of mass incarceration that has been going on. Brazil’s prison population saw a 483% increase since 1990, and the system is overpopulated in every state in the country. Following the same patterns of other prison systems around the globe, young, poor, black adults make up the largest portion of prisoners.

Respected international organizations such as Human Rights Watch have pointed to “Lei de Drogas” (Brazilian National Drugs Law) as the primary reason for the increase in the prison population. The law’s deficient language allows minor infractions to be considered criminal offenses, fills up prisons with unnecessary offenders, and perpetuates a vicious cycle of poverty, violence, and incarceration.

I am urging you to repeal and replace the National Drugs Law, and implement a long-term solution to the numerous problems inside the country’s prisons, which will immediately refresh prisons’ capacity. The consequences of this action will certainly resonate outside prison camps and will improve the country’s living standards as well.


[your name here]

Photo credit: Xinhua/A Crítica

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One Comment

  1. This tragic situation must be rectified. So many young lives are being ruined because of this draconian system.

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