Business, Economics and Jobs

Photo story: Drug mules, now prison inmates



div.leadphoto {

This Portuguese girl, of Cape Verde descent, was tricked by a friend into taking her place as a drug mule on a trip to Brazil. She didn't need the money; she had a house, a good job and so did her husband. (Jackie Dewe Matthews/GlobalPost)

"When they give you the yellow pants and white T-shirt, that is the moment you realize you are actually in prison," siad a Bulgarian prisoner. (Jackie Dewe Matthews/GlobalPost)

A Filipino girl arrives at her cell block on her first day at the prison, carrying what are now her only possessions: a foam mattress and a spare set of prison clothes. She has been arrested at Sao Paulo Guarulhos International airport for smuggling cocaine. (Jackie Dewe Matthews/GlobalPost)

This Hungarian woman was persuaded to travel to Brazil by her Nigerian lover. She thought she was carrying diamonds, but a police search at the airport revealed she was actually carrying 3 kilos of cocaine. (Jackie Dewe Matthews/GlobalPost)

A cell at Sao Paulo Capital Penitentiary for Women, meant for one person but which houses three. Two people sleep on the floor. (Jackie Dewe Matthews/GlobalPost)

Luz Mercedes, a grandmother from Peru, is in prison for the second time for drug trafficking. From a wealthy background, she trafficked drugs for the glamor and adrenaline rather than for the money. The police never looked in her bags, which were full of shampoo bottles containing cocaine. (Jackie Dewe Matthews/GlobalPost)

Divorced from her husband, this Filipino woman was the sole provider for three generations of her family. A friend in Malaysia suggested she join the drug business to solve her money problems and, desperate to get home for Christmas, she agreed. (Jackie Dewe Matthews/GlobalPost)

Prisoners work long hours in the kitchen and in several prison-based factories, earning about $150 a month and a reduction in their sentences. It is just enough to buy toiletries and other necessities but not enough to save for an air ticket home. (Jackie Dewe Matthews/GlobalPost)

After a second bad marriage, this South African woman agreed to collect drugs in Brazil. She told her children she would be away for a week. She spoke to them for the first time seven months after arriving in prison. They still think she is working abroad. (Jackie Dewe Matthews/GlobalPost)

This Russian girl was asked by a Nigerian friend to travel to Brazil to collect precious stones. She questioned whether she was in fact carrying drugs, but she was forced to carry on after her daughter's life was threatened. (Jackie Dewe Matthews/GlobalPost)

Helena Kalbacova, of the Czech Republic, was approached by a stranger who wanted her to travel abroad as his translator. Unknown to her, he had agreed to bring drugs back from Brazil and had been told it would be safe to travel as a couple. (Jackie Dewe Matthews/GlobalPost)

"You get up each morning hoping that this day is better than the last and if it's not, you take it as it is. And you just pray everyday that the kids are fine. You only have God in a place like this, nothing else," said a South African prisoner. (Jackie Dewe Matthews/GlobalPost)

This Irish woman is on her weekend break from prison. After working for many years in Europe, she decided to go back to school, but she had trouble paying her fees and rent and so decided to traffic drugs to make some extra money. (Jackie Dewe Matthews/GlobalPost)

"They give us such long sentences that you think you will never see your family again." Eight members of this woman's family have dies since she has been in prison. When she called home last Christmas, her son didn't want to talk to her. (Jackie Dewe Matthews/GlobalPost)

With five children to support, this Filipino woman borrowed money at a very high interest rate to pay a fixer to get her a job in Thailand. Desperate to pay off her debt, she accepted an offer to traffic drugs. Although she worked throughout her time in prison, she won't have the money to buy a ticket home at the end of her sentence. (Jackie Dewe Matthews/GlobalPost)