The Colombian prison institute was ordered to award a former inmate approximately $55,000 to compensate for inhumane conditions while he was imprisoned.
William Alberto Molina allegedly endured such inhumane conditions while he was held for three years in Medellin‘s prison, Bellavista, that a court ordered that he would receive the equivalent of 175 minimum monthly salaries from the National Prison Institute (INPEC), Santa Fe Radio reported Tuesday.
Public Defender Jorge Armando Otalora Gomez said that overcrowding in prisons has become an endemic problem in the country, with prisons averaging 40% over capacity, the worst case in the country being 140% over capacity. In August Gomez also stated that the Bellavista prison, which was built for some 2,400 inmates, has a prison population of over 7,700.
The victory for Molina, who was in prison from September 1997 to December 2000, could have a greater affect than simply receiving money from INPEC. Newspaper Semana quoted Gomez saying that because of this ruling, “130,000 motivated prisoners could be eligible to bring lawsuits against the State.” The lawsuit has therefore called more attention to Colombia’s Penal System and its need for potential adjustment.
This is not the first time that Colombia has been criticized for its current prison system. In September multicultural newspaper The Prisma reported that Colombia’s prisoners were subjected to more than just overcrowding but also extreme violence and disease. The newspaper allegedly obtained information from a Colombian human rights lawyer and the Legal Brigade Foundation (FBJEUM) who promote the rights of prisoners.
According to the article, prisoners “leave behind their dignity” when they enter the prison, allegedly enduring broken glass in food, being thrown out of windows and other forms of violence while incarcerated. The Prisma claimed that abuse is so severe that it sometimes “results in death or suicide” for prisoners.
Inmates all over the country also went on a hunger strike in August to protest the intolerable overcrowding of prisons.