Andrew Sullivan (link) highlights the insanity of the law with this "Chart of the Day", except that chart fails to bring out the message:
For this data set, a Bumps-style chart works very well:
The bar chart uses the wrong minima. Bar charts encode data in the lengths of the bars. When an equal length is chopped off the base of the bars, the relative lengths are distorted.
In the case of Ecuador, it appeared as if murderers get half the sentence as drug traffickers, when in fact the difference is 25 percent.
The chart also obstructs readers from comparing sentences across countries. That must be why the 16 years in Ecuador has the same length as 25 years in Bolivia. Either that, or time runs faster in Bolivia (and Mexico).
The Trifecta checkup (link) reveals that the biggest problem is the misalignment between the question being asked and the data used to address that question.
It's hard to imagine why the "maximum" sentence is considered, rather than, say the average sentence. If the analyst chooses maxima, he/she should assure readers of a couple of things: that the judges in these countries do apply the maximum penalties, and that the proportion of sentences that reach the maxima is roughly similar between drug traffic and murder cases.
I suspect the use of maxima is related to data availability. To compute the average or median sentence requires data on every conviction that leads to a prison sentence. To find out the maximum sentence only requires consulting a book. Is there any real data on the chart? It depends on whether any of these countries routinely dole out the maximum sentence.
Then, there are cases involving both drug trafficking and murder...