Drug Laws and Prison in Ecuador

Ecuador has one of the harshest drug laws in the hemisphere. A non-violent drug offender can receive the same sentence, sometimes even stiffer, than a murderer.

In this video, Analia Silva says she started dealing drugs out of poverty. She explains that she did not even know the type of drugs she was selling; that she only knew that being the sole provider of her two children, she needed to make ends meet. Not knowing how to read or write, she says she considered two options: “becoming a prostitute or selling drugs.” She was caught in 2003 and sentenced to 8 years in jail. In the video she comes to the following conclusion:

“When they sentenced me, and it’s the same for every woman they sentence, they not only sentence the person who committed the crime, they also sentence their family, they also sentence their children. […] [Authorities]  don’t realize that they want to get rid of crime, but they are the ones promoting it because if they [the children] are left alone… what can they do? Go and steal… my daughter would become a prostitute, my son would become a drug addict, deal drugs, sell drugs.”

Currently, Ecuador is in the process of reforming its drug policies to put more emphasis on public health and improved prison conditions.  The Correa administration is also considering a new drug law, which if presented to and approved by the Ecuadorian Congress could provide a model for other countries seeking more effective and humane drug policies.