Nearly 80 foreigners petition Peru to serve prison terms in home country

Seventy-nine foreigners locked up in Peruvian jails – mainly on charges of drug trafficking – have petitioned Peru to serve the remainder of their prison terms in their home country, Vice-Minister of Justice Erasmo Reyna said Monday.

“We have 79 petitions that are currently being evaluated,” said Reyna in comments to state news agency Andina. “This is all part of a penitentiary reform, designed to grant all our prisoners, Peruvians as well as foreigners, the best quality of life possible.”

Of the foreign petitioners, 21 are originally from Mexico, 18 from Spain, 18 from Colombia, 7 from Brazil, 8 from Portugal, 4 from Ecuador, and three from Austria, Israel and the U.K.

Last December, Law 29305 was approved by Congress, allowing allows foreigners to serve their jail time in their countries of origin, for humanitarian reasons. All prisoners willing to serve the remainder of their sentence back home must apply through a legal procedure.

In Peru, prisoners face serious overcrowding and few basic facilities, particularly if they have no relatives or friends to supply basic items such as toiletries or reading materials.

The promise of a fast buck quickly turned into a nightmare for more than 1,000 foreigners who are awaiting trial or serving sentences in Peruvian jails, on charges of operating as drug mules or traffickers.

Most drug mules, or ‘burriers’ as they are called in Peru —  a fusion of “courier” and “burro,” or donkey — are Latin American. But a significant number are European.

Trapped by a snail-paced legal system, most accused drug couriers are locked up for years awaiting trial, facing drug trafficking sentences that range anywhere between five and 15 years. There they face horrific conditions, exposing them to corruption, drugs, prostitution, often rat-infested cells, overcrowding and few basic facilities. Prison time is hardest on prisoners who have no relatives or friends to supply basic items such as toiletries or reading materials. Most smugglers say they have made the mistake of a lifetime.

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