Prison guards in 109 of Colombia’s 138 prisons have decided to refuse the entry and exit of (ex-) convicts after 80 days of protest to demand more money and better working conditions.
The protests have become controversial after the Ombudsman’s Office claimed that the protests are preventing ex-convicts to leave prison while medical check-ups of inmates have been put on hold, gravely violating the human rights of the prisoners.
The prison guards have been protesting since August, but have failed to come to an agreement with the government. As the Santos administration has failed to find a compromise with the striking prison officials, more and more prison guards have joined the protests.
According to the prison guards’ labor union, the government has neglected to honor agreements made in May.
To enforce their demands, the employees of prison authority INPEC have increased the number of prisons on lock down from 30 to 109, meaning nobody can go in or out the penitentiaries. According to the ombudsman, this has only added to the ongoing problem of overcrowding as prisoners who are supposed to be at home are kept illegally in jail.
“Under no pretext, the so-called ‘Operation Regulation’ can convert to the violation of fundamental rights of the imprisoned population, especially in terms of health care,” Ombudsman Jorge Armando Otalora wrote INPEC.
The ombudsman had already warned last month that Colombia’s already overcrowded prisons and ongoing strike demanded that the government declared an emergency. The government has not followed-up on this demand.