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OAS Co-organized in Colombia Meeting on Alternatives to Incarceration for Drug-related Offenses

  October 21, 2014

The Organization of American States (OAS) and the Government of Colombia co-organized in Cartagena, Colombia, the second regional meeting of the hemispheric institution’s member states, which opened yesterday and closed today, in an effort to reach solutions and alternatives to incarceration for drug-related offenders. The event was coordinated by the Secretariat for Multidimensional Security of the OAS, through the Inter-American Drug Abuse Control Commission (CICAD).

The initiative stems from the political and technical dialogue emerging from the Hemispheric Drug Strategy adopted by CICAD in 2010; its Action Plan, agreed to in 2011; and the consensus among countries that the issue of prison overcrowding in the Americas is real: there are 3.6 million prisoners in the Americas, of which more than 1.5 million are detained for drug-related offenses, most of the time for possession or consumption.

Prosecutors, judges, prison wardens, vice ministers, technicians, and policy makers from 22 countries participated in the meeting. The opening session was attended by the Colombian Vice Minister for Crime Policy and Restorative Justice, Miguel Samper Strouss; the Executive Secretary of CICAD, Paul Simons; the Director of the Training Center of the Spanish Agency for International Cooperation for Development (AECID), Mercedes Flórez; and David Alamos Martínez of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). The Minister of Justice and Law of Colombia, Yesid Reyes Alvarado, today closed the two-day event.

Vice Minister Samper expressed special interest in discussing an issue of such importance to his country, which holds the pro-tempore Presidency of CICAD. He further asserted that it is necessary to apply a more comprehensive approach to be able to find more realistic solutions. “A consensus is being established in the Hemisphere on the need to address problematic consumers from the perspective of human rights, of public health,” he added.

As he identified some of the problems with current drug policies, Vice Minister Samper emphasized that, “the use and abuse of pre-trial detention in the Americas is one of our problems.” “Pre-trail detention can exist from the point of view of criminal policy, but it should be the last resort and not a precursor to the sentence,” he noted.

Ambassador Paul Simons stated the importance for member countries of the dialogue. “CICAD is proud to accompany member states as they analyze and adopt more effective policies. The willingness of prosecutors, judges, law enforcement, civil society, and politicians in the Hemisphere to address these vital issues is truly impressive,” he said. In this regard, he noted that “we look forward to continue supporting them in these efforts.”

The results of this initiative will be presented at the upcoming biannual meeting of CICAD that will take place in Guatemala during the third week of November.

For more information, please visit the OAS Website at

Reference: E-449/14