A Bogota judge ordered Colombia’s national prison authority INPEC to transfer over 2,630 prisoners from the capital’s notoriously overcrowded La Modelo prison.
According to the judge’s ruling, the prisoner transfer must be complete within four months.
“[INPEC] must abstain from receiving new detainees until the overcrowding is overcome.”
However, Ruth Stella Correa, Colombia’s Minister of Justice, said the task of transferring the prisoners was “titanic” ans asked for more time for the plan’s implementation. Correa assured the ministry of justice would fulfill the juridical ruling, but said any plan to end overcrowding had to be realized “without chaos.”
“We will present the resources to ask for a broader [time] period. We are aware that transfers have to be made, but to relocate this number of persons is a titanic task even if there existed capacity. But given the non-existence of space [in other prisons] we will need much more time in order to be able to create them and make the necessary transfers,” the minister said.
In January this year, a judge ordered INPEC not to transfer more prisoners to La Modelo, stating the prison was far too overcrowded to be able to house more prisoners. As a temporary measure, INPEC moved some 200 prisoners to another local prison.
The Ombudsman’s office of Colombia recently said the prison was overcrowded by no less than 230%, while stating it lacked proper hygienic facilities and presented problems with food distribution.
On Thursday, INPEC said 16 detention centers in Colombia had already closed to new interns, due to the existing problem of overcrowding. The prison agency said it would appeal the judge’s decision, given other detention centers already suffered from the same type of problem’s as La Modelo.
“This ruling does not take into account that overcrowding in other detention establishments where the 2,630 interns will be taken will be worsened.”
La Modelo is not the only prison in Colombia facing severe problems with overcrowding.
Medellin prisons were forced to shelter prisoners in the basement of the local prosecution building and in Cali the ombudsman said the local Villahermosa prison faced a “humanitarian crisis” due to massive (350%) overcrowding and very poor sanitary conditions. In total, there were 117,689 prisoners in Colombia as of May 2013, meaning the country’s prisons were overcrowded by on average 55,4%