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Failed by the system: Sara's story

Sara is one of the women incarcerated at Costa Rica's Buen Pastor prison, for involvement in the drug market. This is her story. (Photo Essay).

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Sara, 50, fled her family at age 13 to escape sexual abuse at the hands of her uncle. With no education or opportunities, she became drug dependent and worked in the sex trade, and was eventually arrested for selling small quantities of crack to support her own consumption. Out of desperation, she attempted to bribe the police officer arresting her for selling drugs with the equivalent of US$3.75. She is currently serving a combined seven-year plea-bargained sentence for the two offences.









Across Latin America, the effects of disproportionate punishment for low-level, non-violent drug offences are particularly severe for women. For more photo essays from the Washington Office on Latin America, which show the human cost of current drug policies in the Americas, click here.

This photo essay is published as part of an editorial partnership between openDemocracy and CELS, an Argentine human rights organisation with a broad agenda that includes advocating for drug policies respectful of human rights. The partnership coincides with the United Nations General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS) on drugs.


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