How does drug policy affect children and youth when their guardians are in prison? What do children think of drug crimes and the authorities’ response to them? What are these children’s feelings, worries and experiences?

These are some of the questions that guided us to make this Study.

Watch long video (9 min.)

This study places itself at a rarely-examined crossroads: drug policy, incarceration and the rights of children and youth. Its focus is the specific toll that having a parent in prison for a minor, nonviolent drug offense has on children and youth. The research is both qualitative and quantitative and comes from across Latin America and the Caribbean. The research for this study was conducted in eight countries: Mexico, Colombia, Chile, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, Brazil, Uruguay and Panama. Each study involved relevant experts on drug policy, the penal system and policies directed towards children. Some of the questions that guide this study are: How does drug policy affect children and youth when their guardians are in prison? What do children think of drug crimes and the authorities’ response to them? What are these children’s feelings, worries and experiences? In what way are international policies and agreements taken into account when designing, applying and monitoring public policies specifically oriented toward children and youth? In what way should public policies regarding children, drugs and incarceration inform and transform each other in order to ensure the most important factor, the child's ultimate wellbeing? Through the voices of 70 girls and boys with incarcerated parents, as well as those of their caretakers, we offer answers to these questions. We also offer tools that may be useful for organizations working with children, attempting to influence drug policy in the region and creating or implementing public policies related to the rights of children, incarceration and drug legislation.

Extract of the Prologue of the Regional Report “ChildHood that matters”.
Written by Jorge Cardona and Luis Pedernera,
Members of the Committee on the Rights of the Child of the United Nations:



The study we are contributing to moves in this direction. It gathers knowledge that will help us more profoundly understand the consequences on childhood of having a primary caretaker imprisoned. It also builds on the work begun in Invisible No More in order to explore processes of criminalization in Latin America and the Caribbean and its impact on children's rights. For this investigation, the focus is on the criminalization of drug micro-trafficking. The study, however, does not stop at examining the situation, but also lays the foundations for useful tools to build awareness. The title in Spanish contains a double meaning. The phrase Niñez que cuenta immediately brings to mind two things: the voice of youth telling its own story, and childhood being placed at the center of public policy and strategy. The word "cuenta" can be interpreted in both ways, and thus becomes a powerful concept. Both meanings lay bare the main problems for youth in the region: their voices are still not heard, and this specific group is not considered a priority in the development of public policy. The scandalous estimate of almost two million girls and boys with an incarcerated parent illustrates the problem. This study clearly shows that the criminal persecution of micro-trafficking is unsustainable; it causes more harm than good, and its impact on minors is unmistakable. In the vast majority of cases, the incarceration of a guardian negatively affects the development of a child. The testimonies and the ample evidence provided here are conclusive. Children suffer from many forms of harm when their parents are imprisoned, including the psychological effects of separation, the risk of severing relationships or the difficulty faced when attempting to preserve them, exposure to neglect and the financial hardships that place children in positions of greater vulnerability in the face of abuse, among others. .


Regional Study & Executive Summary

Regional Study: Childhood that matters: The impact of drug policy on children of incarcerated parents in Latin America and the Caribbean.

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Executive Summary: Childhood that matters: The impact of drug policy on children of incarcerated parents in Latin America and the Caribbean.

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National Reports (in Spanish)

Brasil: Niños y niñas con madres y padres encarcelados por delitos de drogas menores no violentos.

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Chile: Niños y niñas con madres y padres encarcelados por delitos de drogas menores no violentos.

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Colombia: Niños y niñas con madres y padres encarcelados por delitos de drogas menores no violentos.

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Costa Rica: Niños y niñas con madres y padres encarcelados por delitos de drogas menores no violentos.

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México: Niños y niñas con madres y padres encarcelados por delitos de drogas menores no violentos.

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Panamá: Niños y niñas con madres y padres encarcelados por delitos de drogas menores no violentos.

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República Dominicana: Niños y niñas con madres y padres encarcelados por delitos de drogas menores no violentos.

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Uruguay: Niños y niñas con madres y padres encarcelados por delitos de drogas menores no violentos.

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The team

Project team

Lead researcher

Corina Giacomello, Profesora-investigadora del Instituto de Investigaciones Jurídicas de la Universidad Autónoma de Chiapas, Mexico.

National researchers and teams

  • Luis Alberto Muñoz & Briseida Echaury, México.
  • Demaluí Amighetti, Adriana Rodríguez, Grettel Sanabria & Priscilla Alvarado, members of Grupo de investigación Asociación Costarricense para el Estudio e Intervención en Drogas (ACEID), Costa Rica.
  • Kenya Romero, Dominican Republic.
  • Astrid Karine Torres, associate researcher for Observatorio Sobre Infancia, Universidad Nacional de Colombia, Colombia.
  • Lorena Rivera & Paula Margotta, researchers for the Centro de Estudios Primera Infancia (CEPI) and Javiera Roa, member of ENMARCHA, Chile.
  • Ana Paula Galdeano, researcher for the Centro Brasileiro de Análise e Planejamento (CEBRAP), Brazil.
  • Emilia Pérez, Florencia Lemos and Gurises Unidos, Uruguay.
  • Eugenia Rodríguez, researcher for the Centro de Investigaciones de la Facultad de Humanidades, Universidad de Panamá and Francisca Hidalgo, Executive Director and Founder of ENMARCHA, Panamá.

Technical revisions

Coletta Youngers (Washington Office on Latin America) / Martín Coria (Church World Service)

Technical collaboration on Children’s Rights perspective and revisions

Gonzalo Salles & Lia Fernández (Gurises Unidos)

Quantitative data collection and analysis

Briseida Echaury / Juan Martín Rival

Design

Moquo | moquodesign.com

Photography and video production

Marisa Montes

English translation

Anna Rimoch / Laura Curkendall (Church World Service)

General project coordination

Luciano A. Cadoni (Church World Service)

Produced by
Church World Service

In
collaboration with

With financial
support from
Open Society Foundations

Church World Service, Gurises Unidos
and other organizations that have been
part of this project are members of