Congress approves legislation to reduce costs and overcrowding in Peru’s prisons

The Permanent Commission of Peru’s congress has approved legislation  that will allow some inmates to apply for early release and to finish their sentences outside of prison, in an effort to cut costs and reduce overcrowding in the country’s penal system.

Under the new early release bill, passed on Thursday, inmates found guilty of any crime that does not carry a sentence exceeding 6 years in prison can qualify for the program, daily El Comercio reported. If released, however, offenders are required to wear electronic monitoring devices strapped around their ankles. Each day wearing the electronic devices is equivalent to one day in prison.

Minister of Justice Aurelio Pastor told El Comercio that some 2,000 inmates will be approved for the program this year, with the first group being released in July. Priority will reportedly be given to inmates that are older than 65 years, seriously ill, physically handicapped and immobile, as well as women in their last trimester of pregnancy or who have recently given birth.

By reducing Peru’s prison population, the program is expected to cut costs to the penal system. The electronic monitoring devices will cost the State $7 per person each day, compared to $12 a day per person in prison. The program’s budget will be approximately $2.8 million in its first two years of operation.

Critics of the program argue, however, that it will benefit those guilty of corruption. Congressman Cayo Galindo of the Peru’s Nationalist party pointed out that most crimes related to corruption, including collusion and bribery, carry sentences that are less than 8 years.

Similar programs are used in other countries, including the United States and Colombia. In 2009, Illinois began an early release program with electronic monitoring devices in an effort to reduce prison costs.

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