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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

Yale: Incarceration for Low-Level Drug Crimes Rapidly Spreading TB in Brazil

Increasing rates of drug-related incarcerations are perpetuating tuberculosis (TB) infection among Brazil’s general population, a new report, Reservoirs of Injustice, from the Yale Global Health Justice Partnership (GHJP) at the Yale School of Public Health and Yale Law School finds.

Prisoners are especially vulnerable to the bacterial disease and in Brazil they are on average 23 times as likely to contract TB compared to members of the general population. From 2009 to 2017, the number of TB cases in prisons in Brazil doubled. With more than half a million prisoners, Brazil has the world’s third largest prison population, more than a quarter of whom are incarcerated for drug-related offenses

The report found that Brazil’s punitive drug policies and increased incarceration rates have contributed to the spread of TB in the country, and the authors argue that efforts to eliminate TB in Brazil must incorporate drug policy reform due to the interrelatedness of existing drug laws, mass incarceration, and the spread of TB.

In 2017, over 10 million people fell ill with TB worldwide and an estimated 70,000 people contracted the disease in Brazil. In the same year, it killed approximately 1.6 million people worldwide and over 5,000 people in Brazil.

The proportion of Brazilian prisoners incarcerated for drug-related offenses has risen dramatically in recent years, due in part to a punitive drug law enacted in 2006 and the failure to use custody hearings, proven to decrease overcrowding in pre-trial detention centers, the authors said.

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