Locked Up Abroad: Drug Mules in Jail

National Geographic Channel tells stories of captured drug mules in foreign jails, season premiere tonight, June 30th, 9pm

By Gabrielle Pantera

National Geographic: Krista and Jennifer locked up in Peru

National Geographic: Krista and Jennifer locked up in Peru

HOLLYWOOD, CA (Gosh!TV) 6/30/2010 – “We were going on the vacation of our lives,” says Krista Barnes. Krista and her friend Jennifer had originally met through a friend who ran a modeling agency. “We wondered, why they were going to pay for our trip to Peru? They wanted us to bring something, a little bit of cocaine.”

“I got asked by a Peruvian customs agent to follow him to a back room,” says Jennifer Davis. “When I have cocaine in my bag. I was scared to death.”

The Oscar-winning 1978 film Midnight Express, told the story of 23-year-old college student Billy Hayes, his imprisonment for drug smuggling and his escape from the infamous Turkish Sagmalcilar prison in Istanbul. However, neither the film nor the book authored by Hayes, was completely accurate. As part of the National Geographic series, Haynes is able to tell the full story of his imprisonment and eventual escape.

The lesson of Billy Hayes, Krista and Jennifer, and other foreign jail prisoners in the National Geographic Channel Locked Up Abroad series, is that being a drug mule is a dangerous job. You don’t want to get locked up abroad. Not in Turkey, not in Peru and not in Bangladesh.

Bangladesh, with its long borders with India and Burma, seems ideal for smuggling heroin. That may be by courier from Pakistan, by commercial vehicles and trains from India, from the sea through the Bay of Bengal or overland by truck or public transport from Burma.

In 1992, Eliadah McCord attempted to smuggle six pounds of heroin. In Bangladesh, the penalty for smuggling more one once of heroin is life in prison or execution. Bangladesh has the highest prison population rate in South Asia: 288 percent of official capacity. The country currently has around 74,170 prisoners, 2.8% of which are female.

Despite harsh penalties for those caught, the war on drugs is a failure.  One reason for that failure is that imprisoning drug mules does nothing to stem smuggling. Whether through using bribery or coercion, drug kingpins can always find someone else to do the dirty work…and go to jail for it, not them. Whether the drug mule is driven by greed or intimidation, there’s always  another one.

National Geographic Channel Locked Up Abroad season premiere tonight, June 30th, 9pm


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