Women who bring drugs into prison may get break

The legislature’s anti-drug commission moved Thursday to give a break to women who smuggle drugs to their imprisoned boyfriend or spouse

Right now the penalty for doing that can be eight to 20 years in prison. The Comisión Permanente Especial de Seguridad y Narcotráfico gave approval Thursday to a change in the law that would reduce the penalty to three to five years.

Lawmakers heard that there are 120 women in the Buen Pastor correctional center after having been convicted of smuggling drugs into prisons.

Lawmakers heard from María de los Ángeles Chaves Villalobos, director of Buen Pastor, and from Marta Iris Muñoz Cascante, director of Defensa Pública, whose office represented many of these women.

Ms. Muñoz said many of the women submitted to an abbreviated legal process in order to get a reduced term. This process makes invisible the history of discrimination, threats and vulnerability and poverty
of these women and the judges do not know about the threats and pressure, she said.

Annie Saborío Mora, the lawmaker who headed the subcommittee that studied the proposal, noted that
the law provides the same penalty for smuggling drugs into prison as it does for someone who sets up and conducts an extensive narcotics smuggling ring.

From the discussion, it was unclear if men who smuggle drugs into prison would benefit from the proposed legal change.

The Patronato Nacional de la Infancia, the child welfare agency, also supports the legal change, lawmakers were told.

Several women are caught each months in the act of smuggling drugs. Many more must get through because when guards do an extensive sweep of the facilities, they turn up quantities of drugs as well as other smuggled items.

Ms. Chaves said that there are 780 women now in prison for drug violations. That includes the 120 who were caught smuggling into prisons. Lawmakers were told that most of the women who were caught do not have steady jobs and have children to raise. They also have limited schooling.

They average four children each, lawmakers heard.

The chief defense lawyer and the prison director said those who were caught were housewives and prostitutes or those worked as maids.

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