Prison inmates suffer human rights violations

824Views 7Comments Posted 01/01/2017

THE 17,000 PRISONERS IN Panama’s jail system suffer from serious human rights violations  including lack of health care and delays in legal proceedings says the Ombudsman Human Rights Office.

Ellis Ríos,  said that in 2016  jail visits revealed that  prisoners have limited access to health care and the transfer of an inmate to a medical center requires the provision of custodians and vehicles  and consequently  a high percentage of inmates with sensitive conditions miss medical appointments in hospitals.

The same situatin exists  for  hearings and judicial proceedings, says Rios.

"These are the human rights of those deprived of liberty that must be guaranteed, but the system prevents  full compliance."

He said that more than 60% of complaints received are related directly to the poor provision of health services and the suspension of court appointments to move their processes.

In cases where prisoners suffer from chronic diseases such as HIV / AIDS and communicable diseases such as tuberculosis, require specialized treatments on a regular basis.

He emphasized that in some penitentiary centers such as La Joya and La Joyita, they h ave encountered infrastructure problems including waterleaks.

Areas for recreation are scarce, and there is overcrowding in the pavilions. Lack of physical space is one of the more serious problems faced by detainees in the and  this can generate disputes and confrontation between groups that share the same pavilion.

The director of the Penitentiary System, Mario Chan, acknowledged that "There is overcrowding", since the capacity of the prisons is for about 11,000 inmates, but at present that population exceeds 17,000

However, Chan explained that work is being done on the construction of new penitentiary centers in Colón, and  Chiriquí and a female re-socialization center, structures that must be completed  in 2017.

A report delivered by Minister of Government, Milton Henríquez, to the Assembly said custodians are needed to monitor the prisons.

At present there are about 900 civil guards to serve the 17,000 inmates . That is, one  Custodian for 20 detainees. According to the report of the Ministry this implies a workload of these security personnel, which would translate into "a risk to their safety, constant resignations, work-related stress and possible acts of corruption ".

Lack of budget
Henríquez acknowledged that the budgetary allocations for the maintenance, and construction of penitentiary centers and the provision of custodians are "Insufficient".

He emphasized that each year the burden on the prosecutors and the penitentiary system is greater.

“We have have been petty with justice and failed to provide it with the necessary resources for its operation,"

Sometimes it is "Very difficult" to know the legal situation of the prisoners, so they decided to establish a plan to classify them.

For this reason, the La Gran Joya prison has not yet been fully occupied, since the inmates are first classified in order to know their procedural situation and then they are moved.

The  prison has a 47% occupancy due to this process, but that it is underway. He said that it was a job that should have been done "years ago."