At least 1,600 low-risk prisoners have been granted early release by Colombian judges since January as part of a nationwide effort to ease overcrowding in prisons, reported national media Wednesday.
The chief of Colombia’s Prison and Penitentiary Institute (INPEC) has announced that some 3,000 prisoners have applied to join those already released ahead of their original sentences following a penal code reform signed into law last month by President Juan Manuel Santos, reported the El Tiempo newspaper.
In total, between 7,000-9,000 prisoners could reportedly leave prison early in the coming months. Only prisoners serving their first stint in prison on an original sentence no greater than eight years are eligible for early release, El Tiempo said. In addition to the complete exclusion of violent offenders, applications from inmates convicted of fraud, extortion and certain forms of theft will not be considered by INPEC authorities.
Of the 3,000 applications presented to his office, Justice Minister Alfonso Gomez Mendes has ordered the removal of 142, reportedly submitted by gang members, the El Espectador newspaper reported.
The decision to fast track prisoners deemed “low-risk” came less than a month after a deadly fire killed over 10 inmates in one northern Colombian jail, leaving dozens wounded.
As recently as December, Colombia’s prisons were at over 150% capacity, according to the INPEC, drawing increasing pressure from domestic and international human rights groups.