President Alan García inaugurates new women’s minimum security prison and announces construction of four additional jails

In an attempt to resolve severe prison overcrowding, Peru’s President Alan García inaugurated a minimum security women’s detention center this week, and said that the Justice Ministry plans the construction of four additional prisons, including a $22 million maximum security jail, in 2009.

Approximately 600 women from Chorrillos’ overcrowded Santa Monica prison– where more than 1,300 women are crammed into a facility built for 250 – will progressively be transferred to the recently inaugurated Tarapacá facility, a detention center designed for women aged 18 to 30 who have committed minor crimes such as theft or fraud.  Both the women’s prisons are located in the district of Chorrillos in southwest Lima.

The maximum security prison to be built in 2009, said Justice vice-minister Erasmo Reyna, will take in 2,000 inmates currently serving time in Lima’s infamous Lurigancho prison.

In 2005, confrontation between rival gangs in the prison left five inmates dead and at least 18 others wounded, exposing the massively overcrowded facility to international attention. More than 10,000 inmates are jam-packed into the Lurigancho prison, on the outskirts northeast of the capital, originally intended to house fewer than 2,000.

Inmates in Peruvian jails are frequently exposed to corruption, drugs, prostitution, overcrowding and sometimes rat-infested cells.

The construction of this new maximum security facility, two additional jails in yet-to-be-determined geographical locations, as well as a new prison in Chincha, south of Lima – to replace the Tambo de Mora prison that crumbled after last year’s 7.9-magnitude earthquake – are part of the Justice Ministry’s 2008-2017 Penitentiary Infrastructure Plan.

Pardons, early releases or sentence reductions are also part of the Ministry’s solution to overcrowding. So far, in December, 201 pardons were granted to inmates serving time in various prisons across Peru, said Reyna in comments to state news agency Andina.

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