Feb 22, 2012

Rule of Law: Pre-Trial Detention Brews Crisis in Latin America Prisons

InSight Crime: "Recent prison disasters, with a deadly fire in Honduras and a massacre in Mexico, point to the misuse of pre-trial detention in those countries' justice systems, stuffing penal facilities with people who haven't been charged with a crime.

... Both prisons were severely overcrowded, and filled with inmates who had not yet been convicted or charged. The Mexican prison ... was at 180 percent capacity. In Honduras, two-thirds of the inmate population were being held without a charge, or were awaiting trial. The prison, designed to hold 400 inmates, housed twice that number.

Both Mexico and Honduras have employed pre-trial detention as a core part of the national strategy against organized crime. In a functioning justice system, only those deemed to be high-risk or likely to flee the country are held in prison before trial. Instead, in these countries, suspected first-offense muggers and drug dealers are locked up alongside more serious offenders, with no chance of bail.

Not only has this filled prisons beyond capacity, but it has helped to foster corruption among prison guards, who are unable to exert control over the huge inmate population. The lack of a strong government penal authority further strengthens the networks of corruption and bribery found within the system." read more

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