Colombia’s principal military prison has again been exposed for granting excessive privileges to its inmates.
Colombian news publication, Semana, has revealed over a dozen cases in which military prisoners, including inmates incarcerated for human rights violations, have continued to receive excessive benefits and inappropriate treatment in Tolemaida military prison, located in Colombia’s central Tolima department. A similar scandal rocked the military establishment in 2011.
The new report reveals numerous instances of gross misconduct, including authorized and unregistered civilian visits to the prison, guards turning a blind eye to gifts to inmates of liquor, telephones and laptops, and even the sanctioning of parties within the prison.
Excessively frequent leave was also reportedly granted to certain prisoners, allowing the inmates to visit their families, go shopping in Colombia’s capital of Bogota, and to enjoy recreational trips outside of the prison. Semana released videos of prisoners shopping in town, as well as recordings of inmates speaking on mobile phones from their prison cells.
It is also claimed that, before Christmas, competitions were held within the prison, with the prizes on offer being 48 hour passes to leave the prison.
One example of excessive privilege can be seen with the case of prison inmate Sergeant Wilson Casallas Suescun, who was sentenced to 40 years in prison for homicide, and for his involvement in the murder of four peasants, including two minors and a six month old baby, in 2004. Casallas, a prisoner at Tolemaida since January 2010, reportedly had a personal minibus at his disposal until last year, which was driven by his wife, who in an unprecedented example of inappropriate benefits, lives with their daughters in a government-owned house inside the Tolemaida complex. Casallas has also been leaving the prison every month for “medical appointments” in Bogota.
General Sergio Mantilla responded to the revelations, describing the privileges as “unacceptable.” However, Mantilla played down the scope of the problem, claiming that the incidences of such conduct have been far lower than in comparison to the previous scandal that embroiled the prison in 2011.
“Those implicated in this scandal consist of around 10 men of a total of 500 who work in the prison system,” said Mantilla.
Mantilla also announced that the army is taking new measures against such prison corruption. The institution’s director, Colonel Juan Ricardo Silva, has already been removed and placed under investigation, while “various prisoners” have been relocated.
In addition, plans have been put in place for the construction of a new military prison “in the next year and a half,” which will allow for more stringent control over the conduct of both employees and inmates. The new prison is to be funded by the Ministry of Defense and could be located on the outskirts of Bogota.
- Exclusivo de SEMANA: Tolemaida Tours (Semana)
- Para evitar irregularidades como en Tolemida, se construirá nueva cárcel militar (El Espectador)
- El silencio no se compra con permiso para buscar guayos: general Sergio Mantilla (Blu Radio)
- Autoridades investigan salidas a fiestas de presos en cárcel de Tolemaida (El Colombiano)