Justice Minister announces commission to improve prison system

February 2, 2008 9:59 amComments OffViews: 44

Justice Minister Rosario Fernández announced the commission that will evaluate and make recommendations on a privatization plan for Peru’s future prisons, in an attempt to address problems such as overcrowding. The commission, which has 30 days to produce its report, is led by Gonzalo Prialé Cevallos, who is accompanied by penal and public management specialists as well as engineers and fellow economists.  Prialé, an economist and agro-exporter, is president of AFIN, the association for development of national infrastructure formed by members of Confiep, the confederation of national private businesses. 

Peru’s prisons are currently managed by the National Penitentiary Institute, INPE. Under the new system, prison administration would be controlled by private companies under INPE’s supervision.

“Basically, we aren’t trying to resolve or correct the existing penitentiary problems, but rather find a formula so the future prison system will be more humane,” said Prialé.

Peru’s prison population has steadily increased over the last 15 years with overpopulation as one of the main problems today. INPE told Andean Air Mail there are currently 41,546 inmates in Peru’s prisons, representing about 14 percent of the national population. It added the prison systems national capacity is only 22,540.

The most extreme case of overcrowding is Lima’s San Pedro prison, commonly known as Lurigancho, one of Latin America’s largest prisons. INPE said the prison holds some 9,800 inmates with a capacity for only 3,240.

Prison specialist Héctor Bellido Sánchez said, in a daily El Comercio interview, outsourcing is the only way to improve Peru’s prisons. “INPE has demonstrated that it is unfortunately an inefficient institution to be in charge of prison administration. The concession should be absolute, as much with administration as internal and external security,” said Bellido.

He added that future prisons shouldn’t be like Lurigancho, “which no longer exists as a prison, it is simply four walls with a lot of people inside.”

However, Peru’s national ombudsman says outsourcing isn’t the solution to the country’s prison problem. The head of the Defensoría del Pueblo’s penal program, José Ávila, told El Comercio, “you have to be very careful with some of the services. For example, the experience with food services is not good. Private companies give terrible service.”

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