It's Time for Alternatives

Anyone caught using and in possession of drugs in Malaysia goes straight to prison. It doesn’t matter if drugs are used for recreational or medicinal purposes. It also doesn’t matter if it’s the first time experimenting with drugs or a dependency.


This is a problem.


Since 2021, there is an estimate of 48,000 people in Malaysian prisons for minor non-violent drug offences. This includes a large percentage of People Who Use Drugs (PWUDs) and in posessions of drugs for personal use.


Prison is Not the Solution.

Imprisonment of PWUDs does not reduce drug use in the community. Instead, it hinders people with a drug dependency access to rehabilitation and community support. It also further exposes individuals to harmful experiences with the criminal justice system with long term impacts on their lives after prison.


Imprisonment of PWUDs means:


  • People who have a drug dependency do not have access to voluntary community based treatment in prison; 
  • Individuals lose a huge part of their life due to a non-violent offence. Face missed opportunities for growth and development, which can take a huge toll on the future of many youths;
  • Criminal records make it difficult to be accepted back into society and to find employment.

Unnecessary imprisonment of PWUDs contributes to Prison Overcrowding.

Malaysian prisons have been operating overcapacity since the early 2000s. As of last year, prisons are 113.5% full – people in prisons are forced to live in unrealistically confined spaces and inhumane living conditions, without access to proper sanitation or health care. 



When prisons are overcrowded, they no longer fulfill their functions, fail to rehabilitate violent offenders, and can be life-threatening. Prison populations are steadily increasing each year, with COVID-19 and a global economic crisis ahead, this situation may be aggravated.



The two main reasons our prisons are overcrowded are because:


  • Up to 63% of the individuals in prison are sentenced for minor non-violent drug offences, including possession of drugs for personal use;
  • 26% of those in prison are pre-trial detainees (individuals in prison that are awaiting trials but not yet convicted of a crime)

We are calling for alternatives to imprisonment.

The government has proposed an amendment to the new Drug and Substance Abuse Act 2020 to replace the Drug Dependents (Treatment & Rehab) Act 1983. For the reasons above, we hope that this amendment will put an end to treating PWUDs as criminals.


Please sign this petition and support our demand for better alternatives to imprisonment for PWUDs starting with:

  • PWUDs are not criminals and do not belong in prison;
  • Individuals awaiting trial for drug use and in possession for personal use should have access to bail;
  • People caught using drugs and in possession of drugs for personal use should be treated as an administrative offence – charged with being in violation of the law, but the offence is not serious enough to be considered criminal.

Instead of prison, alternatives could be:

  • Voluntary Community-based Treatment: PWUDs should have access to voluntary community-based treatments and not be forced into treatment centres. The majority of PWUDs are NOT dependent on drugs.
  • Community Service Order: Perform a number of hours of community service for the benefit of the public.
  • Fines: Monetary penalties or additional service hours (for those who can not afford it)

Follow our campaign on our Instagram. Help spread this petition using the hashtag #ItsTimeforAlternatives. Once we reach 2,000 signatures, we will send this to the Minister of Home Affairs’ office.

It’s Time For Alternatives campaign is a collective effort of SUARAM, HAKAM YOUTH, CERiA, Love Frankie and the Peluang Initiative – to raise awareness and increase understanding of people who use drugs (PWUDs), prison conditions in Malaysia and the need for alternatives to imprisonment.