Prison Overcrowding above 200 percent in Seven Latin-American Countries

EspañolA report released by the Iberoamerican Federation of Ombudsman (FIO) has found that at least seven Latin-American countries suffer prison overcrowding greater than 200 percent of designated levels. FIO, an organization composed of 20 Ombudsman’s offices, says the situation impacts inmates’ healthcare and safety, and erodes relationships among prisoners.

According to the report, prison overcrowding violates inmates’ human rights and leads to increased levels of violence within these penitentiaries.

The FIO investigation is buoyed by a report from the International Center for Prison Studies (ICPS) of Essex University in England. The ICPS report states that four of the 10 countries with the largest prison overpopulation rates in the world are in Latin America.

Haiti leads the FIO rankings, with a prison occupancy rate of 416 percent, followed by El Salvador (320 percent), Venezuela (270 percent), and Bolivia (257 percent). Guatemala (252 percent), Peru (219 percent), and Ecuador (205 percent) are among the other countries of the region with an occupancy rate over 200 percent.

The Office of the Paraguayan Ombudsman reports an average occupancy rate of 131 percent, but this number climbs to 333 percent at the Tacumbú prison in the country’s capital. Brazil presents a curious case, considering the country has the fourth largest prison population in the world, with about 548,000 total inmates, but its 172 percent occupancy rate ranks only 35th in the world.

However, not all Latin-American countries experience this issue. Puerto Rico is an exception with a occupancy rate of 88 percent. This was possible thanks to substantial investments in prison infrastructure.

The abysmal living conditions were assessed by determining the bed deficit (almost 50 percent of prisons lack beds for inmates), lack of hot water (66 percent of facilities), and absence of basic personal hygiene items (40 percent of prisons).

Inadequate access to health care, poor sanitary conditions, and deficient nutrition create a situation conducive to the rampant spread of disease.

Source: El País.

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