At least 5,000 Colombian inmates have gone on hunger strike across the country to protest overcrowding and poor conditions, according to local media.
The strike is the latest in a series of actions taken by prisoners and prison guards to protest the conditions in which they live and work.
One of the principal complaints of the hunger strikers is that their access to healthcare be improved.
“They are demanding that a prison emergency be declared to improve health, because there is neither medicine nor permanent medical attention, along with the conditions of seclusion, food, and visiting schedules,” according to prison source who spoke with newspaper La Vanguardia.
According to the national prison authority INPEC itself, an overcrowding rate of more than 50% is prevalent throughout the country.
This is not the first time Colombian prisoners have gone on hunger strike to protest their conditions. Back in 2012, a similar strike occurred over overcrowding.
Systemic problems with prisons and corruption have led to calls from Congress to dismantle INPEC and replace it with an entirely new institution.
INPEC says that Colombia’s 138 prisons house over 41,000 prisoners more than they are built to. With a total capacity of 76,519, Colombia’s prisons hold 117,737 individuals, according a May ombudsman’s report.
In the city of Barranquilla alone, fires in overcrowded prisons have cost the lives of 23 inmates this year.