Venezuela needs about 30 more jails
The government promised to build 15 detention centers
Only four months ahead of the presidential elections, Iris Varela, the minister of Penitentiary Services, announced that eight new penitentiaries are being built in Venezuela. The announcement was made on the same eve as the loot resulting from a comprehensive inspection carried out at La Planta Prison, southwest Caracas, on Sunday, June 3rd was displayed through mass media. According to Varela, the new penitentiaries should be ready by March 2013.
The project will commence in early August as construction work on the first three of 24 prisons scheduled to be built is set to take place.
Nevertheless, Humberto Prado, the director of the Venezuelan Prison Watch (OVP), believes that 15 judicial detention centers and 15 prisons, with a capacity of 500 inmates each, must be built so that 15,000 new spaces are created.
According to estimates by this NGO, there are approximately 52,000 inmates in the country; 47,000 of them are allocated to prisons while the remaining 5,000 are held in municipal and state police detention centers. Venezuelan Prison Watch claims that Venezuelan prisons are designed to hold only 14,500 people.
Prado believes that judicial detention centers must be built in locations with a significant number of inmates.
Venezuelan Prison Watch, through a plan labeled "Five Steps to Rebuild the Penitentiary System," recommend development of a penitentiary in the coastal state of Vargas as the Macuto police station is overcrowded, and inmates from that coastal region are sent off to prisons in neighboring Miranda state. The plan also includes a new penitentiary in Puerto Cabello, in northern Carabobo state, a center for convicts and a correction facility for Puerto Ordaz, in southern Bolívar state, as well as a remodeling project for the Vista Hermosa jail, also in Bolívar state. In addition, a penitentiary is recommended for Cabimas, in western Zulia state, and a detention center to address overcrowding at the Sabaneta and Colón prisons, in Zulia state.
Prado also believes that Caracas and Cojedes, west Venezuela, need penitentiaries as the ones previously existing in the capital city were shutdown, and Cojedes never even had one to begin with. A maximum-security prison is needed, according to Prado, to protect the physical wellbeing of inmates who become victims of highly dangerous offenders. OVP reports that from 1999 to 2011, 5,066 inmates have been murdered, and 14,460 have been injured within the Venezuelan penitentiary system.
Thirteen years into this government, 11 different plans and policies have been announced to address the correctional situation, including the Humanization Plan for the Penitentiary System.
Whatever happened to "humanization within prison walls"?
A 2010 report by NGO Provea recalled, in its section on the rights of offenders, the national government's promise in its so-called Humanization Plan for the Penitentiary System to build 10 penitentiary communities that would hold 8,100 convicts; five extensions for 2,130 inmates; five socialist production centers for 1,575 offenders; and five maximum-security centers for 1,250 detainees.
Overall, the "humanization plan" was scheduled to build 15 penitentiaries over a five-year period. The project, which should have taken place from 2006 to 2011, estimated 13,055 new spaces for inmates in Venezuelan jails.
However, during the government's 13-year tenure, only 2,700 slots have been created. The report also highlighted that just four of the 15 facilities promised were built, namely, the Minimum-Security Penitentiary of Carabobo (an extension of the Tocuyito Prison) (2007), the Penitentiary Community of Coro (2008), the Yare III Penitentiary (extension) (2009) and the Female Penitentiary of the Insular Region (2009).
Translated by Félix Rojas Alva
Luis Jiménez Alfaro seems to have hidden under the rocks. The last time he was seen was on April 2006 walking calmly around Simón Bolívar International Airport of Maiquetía, located nearby Caracas. At that time, more than five tons of cocaine arrived in Mexico in an airplane which took off from Venezuela, and his name featured as a missing piece of the puzzle of one of the most massive drug shipments that has been witnessed in the Western Hemisphere.