Report: Severe Crisis in Peru Prisons Due to Overcrowding

A report by Peru’s national ombudsman, the Defensoria del Pueblo, confirms the severe overpopulation in the country’s prison system.

According to El Comercio, which published excerpts from the report on Tuesday, Peru’s prison population as of July this year included 48,858 inmates, while the infrastructure only provides space for 28,689 people.

The highlighting of overcrowding in Peru’s prisons follows recent protests by residents living near the La Cantera prison in Canete, south of Lima, over plans to expand the prison and build new facilities.  The protests turned violent and the Pan American Highway was blocked to all traffic. 

Currently, 3,200 inmates are held at La Cantera, which is meant to hold just 820 people. The expansion of the prison was cancelled earlier this week when the government and Cañete community leaders reached an agreement.

The report highlights other major challenges in the country’s prisons. The ombudsman says there are only 63 physicians available nationwide for inmates, while there is only one psychiatrist.

Also, only two prisons include X-ray machines for security, and that there are only 1,050 security agents working in the entire prison system.

The ombudsman’s office sent recommendations to the Justice Ministry  and has asked that a 2012 to 2021 penitentiary reform plan be created.  It also called for a security audit to identify the deficiencies in the penal system, among other measures.

President Ollanta Humala’s cabinet chief, Salomon Lerner Ghitis, reportedly responded saying that the government seeks to resolve in 60 days the situation of inmates with mental health problems by transfering them to specialized health centers.

In September, President Humala proposed during a National Citizen Security Council meeting that new prisons be built in distant areas, such as national border zones, to house high-risk criminals who would be required to work on infrastructure projects.

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