President Alvaro Uribe on Wednesday unveiled the new San Cristobal Medellin jail, designed to represent ‘a new concept in prison policy,’ to re-house inmates from the city’s Buen Pastor prison.
All prisoners currently residing in the city’s Buen Pastor jail as well as 1,100 from its Bellavista facility will be transferred to the newly-constructed penitentiary which includes a visiting room with capacity for 500 people, a cafeteria, legal offices, training areas, and a site for conjugal visits and was designed according to international specifications by the U.S Bureau of Prisons
Prison Director Orfanelly Henao says the San Cristobal is an undoubted improvement on the old facility, which he described as “more of a boarding school.”
One of the benefits of the new penitentiary, Henao said, is that it offers inmates the chance to earn money through on-site factories and workshops manufacturing leather goods and handicrafts.
The director, however, admitted that despite the promise of a comfortable working environment and new sleeping facilities, prisoners had reacted badly to the heightened security measures.
“This really is a prison” the director said. He insisted that many early problems reported by inmates – such as the lack of shower curtains and presence of male prison wardens- were logistical details related to the prison only being completed three days previously.
The unveiling of a new industrial-size kitchen was also overshadowed by reports that prison staff at Buen Pastor had mixed inmates’ food with the anesthetic compound camphor in order to reduce sexual desires. Dario Castro Suarez, representing the prison catering firm Fabio Doblado strenuously denied the accusations and said that laboratory tests had assured authorities of its quality.