Colombia’s justice minister said Wednesday that judges closing prison doors to prevent further overcrowding only “generates chaos” in the country’s crisis-stricken prison system.
According to Minister Ruth Stella Correa, 19 prisons across Colombia have now been closed to new inmates on the orders of judges, after prisoners brought cases to court claiming chronic overcrowding was breaching their constitutional rights.
“We want to send a message to the judges to not order the closing of prison establishments because these measures only cause the system to collapse,” said Correa.
She also said that the government will also challenge some of the decisions in court, claiming that the complete closure of prisons is too absolute and leaves the government no room to maneouvre.
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The crisis of crowding and poor conditions in Colombian prisons has been developing for years and government measures to tackle the problem have moved slowly. However Correa said the situation is now being addressed.
“We want to send a message to judges saying that the Government’s commitment to the prison system is real,” she said.
Claiming that the government’s new prison-building programs had already been on course prior to the judicial decisions, she said that with the help of military engineers 4,000 places were already under construction, with 15,000 prison places due to be built by the end of 2013.
“We are working in the correct manner, determining the need of the prisons and advancing the process of contracting with all the transparency that this government gives it to the conclusion of contracts. This has taken some time but that time is ending and we are not only signing the contracts but executing them, “said Correa.