Sistema penitenciario

Prisioneros en una cárcel de San Salvador en abril de 2020.Credit Agence France-Presse vía la Presidencia de El Salvador/AFP — Getty Images

Si alguien quisiera propagar el coronavirus a propósito, encerraría a muchas personas en espacios hacinados e insalubres, con escasa ventilación, acceso esporádico al agua, atención médica deficiente y muy pocas pruebas para detectar infectados. Es decir, diseñaría una cárcel típica latinoamericana o caribeña.

El distanciamiento social es imposible en las cárceles de Haití, Guatemala, Bolivia, El Salvador y Honduras, donde el número de detenidos es entre el doble y el cuádruple de la capacidad máxima.

Así como el virus se apodera de nuestras células para reproducirse, puede transformar las celdas atestadas e insalubres de las cárceles en incubadoras. Eso sería nefasto, no solo para los internos, sino también para el personal penitenciario y la población en general.…  Seguir leyendo »

La cosa se desató en menos de 24 horas. No había pasado un día desde aquel 20 de marzo en que el presidente de Colombia, Iván Duque, anunció el “aislamiento preventivo obligatorio”, y 13 cárceles del país ya ardían en las llamas de un motín coordinado entre sus reclusos. El saldo, después de una intervención oficial, fue de 23 muertos y 83 heridos. Muchos videos inundaron las redes sociales. El pánico fue la regla.

En el mes que llevamos encerrados, los colombianos hemos podido darnos cuenta de la magnitud de nuestros problemas, amplificados todos por la realidad arrolladora de la pandemia.…  Seguir leyendo »

Con el contagio global de la pandemia de Covid-19, poco hemos hablado de los riesgos para aquellos que por su condición de migrantes o de personas en reclusión, tienen mayor vulnerabilidad. En el caso de los migrantes, las decisiones tomadas por el Gobierno de Estados Unidos agravan la situación. Nuestros connacionales indocumentados, pero también los documentados que habitan en ese país, se ven afectados por la reciente decisión de la Suprema Corte que permite a Trump negarle la renovación de visa a aquellos que utilicen de más el sistema social de su país, aunque paguen impuestos. Esto tiene consecuencias en la asistencia de estas personas y sus hijos a los servicios médicos, que por miedo a perder sus visas no acuden, vulnerando sus derechos y su condición salubre.…  Seguir leyendo »

This week, for many, the coronavirus pandemic that has left much of the world paralyzed is hitting closer to home than ever. But for some of us, the scare is not just about our health or even the availability of essential food and hygiene products in our local stores. It is the crippling fear for our loved ones unjustly imprisoned halfway across the world.

On Tuesday, I woke up to news of the first covid-19 case in Wadi el-Natrun prison, where my father has been held as a political prisoner in Egypt since 2013. Ever since, I have struggled to imagine how Egypt’s prisoners, packed like sardines in unventilated underground dungeons, feel about the impending doom metastasizing in their midst.…  Seguir leyendo »

Sin dignidad no habrá rehabilitación en las cárceles de El Salvador

El Salvador tiene una notoria reputación por la brutalidad de sus pandillas. Pero dentro de las cárceles del país, las condiciones inhumanas y el hacinamiento, no la violencia, representan algunas de las mayores amenazas. Viajé al país centroamericano en diciembre como parte de una misión de observación con la Comisión Interamericana de Derechos Humanos.

En la prisión de Zacatecoluca, algunos reclusos dijeron que no habían recibido visitas en años (la ley prohíbe las visitas familiares en las cárceles de máxima seguridad). Algunos dijeron que no habían visto el sol en meses mientras se acurrucaban en las oscuras y húmedas celdas. Algunas prisiones en El Salvador se desbordan con más del 600% de capacidad.…  Seguir leyendo »

Inside El Salvador’s prisons

El Salvador has a notorious reputation for its brutal gang-related crime. But inside the country’s prisons, inhumane conditions and overcrowding represent some of the biggest threats, not violence. I traveled to the Central American country in December as part of an observation mission with the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights.

At the Zacatecoluca prison, inmates said they hadn’t had any visitors in years. (Family visits are prohibited by law at maximum-security prisons.) Some said they hadn’t seen the sun in months as they huddled in the dark, humid cells. Several prisons in El Salvador are overflowing with over 600 percent capacity.…  Seguir leyendo »

Political prisoners who recanted their views to support the Islamic Republic at a news conference at Evin Prison in Tehran in February 1986. Credit Kaveh Kazemi/Getty Images

“The degree of civilization in a society can be judged by entering its prisons,” Fyodor Dostoyevsky wrote in “The House of the Dead,” his semi-autobiographical novel about inmates in a Siberian prison camp. Iran continues to fail the Dostoyevsky test.

The Evin Prison in Tehran, where a long list of leaders, intellectuals and journalists have been detained over the years, added to its infamy this month with the so-called suicide of Kavous Seyed Emami, a leading environmentalist and academic.

Dr. Seyed Emami, 63, who came from an old clerical family, was a dual Iranian and Canadian citizen. He had received his doctorate from the University of Oregon and returned to Iran in the early 1990s to teach sociology at Imam Sadeq University in Tehran, where Iran’s future elite is educated.…  Seguir leyendo »

Around the world, human-rights activists fight on behalf of people imprisoned in unsanitary jails and denied a fair trial. These victims often suffer the double indignity of being mistreated by their captors and deprived of basic services. In many countries, these abuses are not only taking places in prisons, but in hospitals, too.

A new Chatham House paper that I co-authored with Tom Brookes and Eloise Whitaker shows that up to hundreds of thousands of people are detained in hospitals against their will each year. Their crime? Being too poor to pay their medical bills. This phenomenon is particularly prevalent in several sub-Saharan African countries, notably Nigeria, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ghana, Cameroon, Zimbabwe, and Kenya, but there is also evidence of it in India and Indonesia.…  Seguir leyendo »

I have been a member of Turkish Parliament representing Istanbul for the opposition Republican People’s Party for the past six years. It has forced me to become a specialist in the Turkish prison system as President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (A.K.P.) government has increasingly persecuted politicians, activists, professionals and all sorts of citizens who oppose his rule and arrested thousands after the failed coup attempt last July.

My morning begins with reading the news; looking for court appearance dates for detained parliamentarians, journalists and academics; and checking a website where the government posts its decrees and the names of people who are about to be purged from the government, the military, hospitals, banks, schools and other institutions.…  Seguir leyendo »

A mediados de mayo, Maritza Lemus, conocida como la Patrona, se fugó de la habitación donde estaba recluida en la brigada militar Mariscal Zavala, en Ciudad de Guatemala. Lemus dirigía una banda de secuestradores y sicarios y estaba condenada a 94 años de prisión por asesinato.

La fuga de la supuesta cárcel militar fue, en realidad, una caminata a la calle desde un dormitorio mal vigilado. No es un juego de palabras: la Patrona vivía en una antigua barraca de soldados remodelada para alojar a una docena de prisioneras. Está a pocos metros de la salida principal del cuartel y el cuartel está demasiado próximo a una avenida que conecta a Ciudad de Guatemala con los puertos del Pacífico.…  Seguir leyendo »

Después de pasar los últimos 15 años en una cárcel israelí, he sido tanto testigo como víctima del sistema ilegal de arrestos arbitrarios en masa y del maltrato a presos palestinos implementado por el gobierno de Israel. Cuando ya no hubo más opciones, decidí que el único camino era resistir estos abusos por medio de una huelga de hambre.

Unos 1000 presos palestinos han decidido ser parte de esta protesta que comenzó el miércoles 12 de abril, el día que aquí consideramos como el “día del preso”. La huelga de hambre es la forma más pacífica de resistencia. Solo causa dolor a los que participan y a sus seres queridos, con la esperanza de que sus estómagos vacíos y su sacrificio ayuden a que su mensaje resuene más allá de los confines de sus celdas oscuras.…  Seguir leyendo »

Having spent the last 15 years in an Israeli prison, I have been both a witness to and a victim of Israel’s illegal system of mass arbitrary arrests and ill-treatment of Palestinian prisoners. After exhausting all other options, I decided there was no choice but to resist these abuses by going on a hunger strike.

Some 1,000 Palestinian prisoners have decided to take part in this hunger strike, which begins today, the day we observe here as Prisoners’ Day. Hunger striking is the most peaceful form of resistance available. It inflicts pain solely on those who participate and on their loved ones, in the hopes that their empty stomachs and their sacrifice will help the message resonate beyond the confines of their dark cells.…  Seguir leyendo »

Since New Year’s Day, a wave of horrific prison massacres in Brazil’s north and northeast have left more than 110 inmates dead, many decapitated and disemboweled, with no end in sight. This is prison-gang warfare, pitting the São Paulo-based Primeiro Comando da Capital (PCC), now one of the largest criminal organizations in South America, against a local affiliate of Rio de Janeiro’s Comando Vermelho (CV). The gangs’ 23-year alliance ended in September 2016 when the PCC declared war, citing CV betrayals. A few weeks later, PCC-led prison riots in three states killed about 20 people, foreshadowing January’s bloodletting.

Brazil’s prison gangs wield immense power on the streets, and driving the violence is a dynamic of competitive expansion.…  Seguir leyendo »

Los primeros días de 2017 en Brasil iniciaron con 17 horas de violencia. Miembros de un cartel del narcotráfico llamado Familia del Norte masacraron a miembros de su rival, Primer Comando de la Capital (PCC), una de las pandillas más grandes del país. Los asesinatos ocurrieron en el interior de una prisión de administración privada en la ciudad de Manaos, al norte del país. Al menos 56 personas fueron asesinadas y cerca de 180 pandilleros escaparon, de los cuales 140 siguen prófugos. La policía estatal se mostró renuente a intervenir en el enfrentamiento, por temor a empeorar la situación.

En las paredes grafiteadas de la prisión aparecieron mensajes de advertencia.…  Seguir leyendo »

Brazil’s Deadly Prison System

Brazil’s first days of 2017 were baptized by 17 hours of violence. Members of a drug ring called Familia do Norte (Family of the North) massacred members of the rival Primeiro Comando da Capital (First Command of the Capital), or P.C.C., one of the country’s largest gangs. The bloodletting occurred inside a privately administered prison in the northern city of Manaus. At least 56 people were slaughtered, and some 180 gang members escaped, 140 of whom are still at large. The state police were reluctant to intervene in the fight, fearing they might make the situation even worse.

The warning signs were written on the prison’s graffiti-lined walls.…  Seguir leyendo »

Caníbales en los Andes

Dorancel Vargas Gómez, bautizado “el Comegente” por la prensa de Venezuela, no es, como también lo llamaron, un “Hannibal Lecter de los Andes”. Sí mató y descuartizó a cinco hombres; sí devoró sus restos bajo un puente a fines de los años noventa.

Pero él no posee un intelecto privilegiado; ni seduce a sus víctimas como el personaje del cine, vestido con una braga de presidiario. No. Dorancel es un campesino iletrado y un victimario sin conciencia; el primitivo instrumento de dos fuerzas que siempre lo dominaron: la ignorancia y la locura.

Esta semana, sin buscarlo, el asesino que llevaba años olvidado ha vuelto a ser noticia en América Latina.…  Seguir leyendo »

A young woman incarcerated for moral crimes in Sheberghan Prison. © Gabriela Maj/ Almond Garden, Portraits from the Women's Prisons in Afghanistan (Daylight Books). (Gabriela Maj/Gabriela Maj)

The first thing you hear as you approach Badam Bagh women’s prison in Kabul is children’s laughter. The closer you get, the more the building sounds like a kindergarten class during recess.

Over the past five years, I visited a half-dozen women’s prisons in Afghanistan and met hundreds of women who were arrested while pregnant and gave birth in prison, along with hundreds who came into the system with toddlers. Afghanistan’s prisons are filled with mothers who have been rejected by their families because they are accused of “moral crimes”: women who have been raped or fled abuse or forced marriages, women accused of adultery, unmarried women who have become pregnant with partners their families didn’t approve of.…  Seguir leyendo »

Earlier this summer, we led a delegation of people concerned about the United States criminal justice system to visit some prisons in Germany and observe their conditions. What we saw was astonishing.

The men serving time wore their own clothes, not prison uniforms. When entering their cells, they slipped out of their sneakers and into slippers. They lived one person per cell. Each cell was bright with natural light, decorated with personalized items such as wall hangings, plants, family photos and colorful linens brought from home. Each cell also had its own bathroom separate from the sleeping area and a phone to call home with.…  Seguir leyendo »

Inside Syria’s Jails

In the spring of 2011, hundreds of thousands of Syrians rose up in protest to demand democracy and freedom and an end to the dictatorship of President Bashar al-Assad. The response of the regime was to escalate the methods of repression that had been tried and tested against political opponents since the 1970s: arbitrary detention, disappearance and torture.

I worked as an Arabic teacher in the Damascus suburb of Germana, where my husband and I lived. We were both activists in a left-wing opposition party that had been suppressed for decades. I also founded an organization called Syrian Women for a State of Citizenship, which has been active since the start of the revolution.…  Seguir leyendo »

The typical trajectory of most French Islamist terrorists follows four steps: alienation from the dominant culture, thanks partly to joblessness and discrimination in blighted neighborhoods; a turn to petty crime, which leads to prison, and then more crime and more prison; religious awakening and radicalization; and an initiatory journey to a Muslim country like Syria, Afghanistan or Yemen to train for jihad.

Stints in prison were seminal for Chérif Kouachi, Amedy Coulibaly and other major figures of French jihadism in recent years — Mohammed Merah, Mehdi Nemmouche, Khaled Kelkal — as both a rite of passage and a gateway to radicalism.…  Seguir leyendo »