The Ministry of Justice on Thursday discussed plans to add capacity for 26,000 more inmates to combat systematic overcrowding in Colombian prisons.
“One of the problems that have been identified in visits that the Ministry has made to prisons around the country is related to the infrastructure,” said Deputy Minister for Criminal Policy, Farid Benavides.
The Minister of Justice, Ruth Stella Correa, proposed a project to modify penal code, build mega prisons in a state partnership with private investors, and expand the inmate capacity by 26,000. This is not the first time the Minister has mentioned the plan.
The situation in Colombian prisons is dire. “Conditions are horrific,” an anonymous source familiar with the prison system told Colombia Reports. “People have been incarcerated way past their sentences.”
Overcrowding is rampant. Cali’s Villahermosa prison, originally built for roughly 1,700 inmates, was overcrowded by 350%, according to the Ombudsman’s office. Meanwhile, the prison’s four story building did not comply with established construction norms, while the sanitary system was considered precarious. Risks were also found in the prison’s electrical system.
The Ministry of Justice claimed in a press release that the new project, in which detention facilities would include visiting rooms, exercise areas, and “hospital space,” has reach an “advanced stage of structuring.”
“Meanwhile, in June you will know the names of the first private companies that will partner with the public sector in a great opportunity to contribute to the development and security of the country,” said the Deputy Minister.
In August 2012 prisoners all over Colombia went on hunger strike to protest pervasive overcrowding and unbearable conditions. Calls for the resignation of the director of the country’s prison authority arose.
“Everyone is rioting and on a hunger strike. We are not accepting any type of nourishment,” inmates from Bogota‘s La Picota prison and from the Combita prison in the central Boyaca department told newspaper El Tiempo.
- Communicado de Prensa (Ministerio de Justicia)