Just before going on summer recess, Colombia’s congress approved a provisional bill to prevent the pending release of some 20,000 crime suspects from Colombia’s over crowded prisons.
Congress was forced to quickly pass a bill that extends the legal time limit a crime suspect can be held in jail.
Due to administrative chaos in the prison system and major clogging at the country’s prosecution offices, thousands of crime suspects have been held in jail without being tried.
The constitutional court ruled in April that all suspects who have been in jail for more than the legally allowed period of time should be released on July 7.
Colombia’s interim prosecutor general had urged congress to act quickly, warning that among those that could be released are “997 suspects of the rape of children younger than 14” and “1,053 suspects of sexual abuse of children younger than 14,” the age of consent in Colombia.
Additionally, interim Prosecutor General Jorge Perdomo said, some 1,907 homicide suspects, 2,913 alleged drug traffickers and 513 alleged extortionists could be released unless Congress bars this pending release before June 20, the last day of the congressional year.
To prevent this, Congress extended a provisional law passed in 2015 that allowed the prosecution to hold crime suspects longer than commonly allowed.
But the prosecution, plagued by understaffing, failed to effectively catch up on criminal cases, further worsening a humanitarian crisis in prison where overcrowding has been rampant for years.
While the bill does prevent the release of potentially dangerous suspects, it also maintains the humanitarian crisis in prisons and the fact that some jailed suspects spend more time in jail than the maximum sentence for the crime they are suspected of.