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Costa Rica's Prison Overpopulation A Serious Problem With No Easy Solutions

The rise in crime and the efforts by police to combat it has meant an overpopulation of Costa Rica's jail, that has become a serious problem and one that is being tackled by the Costa Rica's ombudswoman, Ofelia Taitelbaum.

The head of the Defensora de Los Habitantes is criticising the governments handling of the overpopulation problem and is calling for a new public ciminal policy, according to the needs of the country.

Currenlty there is a capacity for only 8.225 prisoners in the country's prison system. However, the number prisoners at current count is 9.304, or 1.000 more than capacity.

The ombudswoman points out that between December 2008 and December 2009 only 330 new spots were created in the penitentiary system, meanwhile the number of prisoners grew by 1.079, or three times more.

Taitelbaum points out that the prison shortage problem is not just the responsibility of the Ministerio de Justicia, the government agency that runs the penitentiary system, but that of other government agencies to reduce crime and better economic and social conditions.

"Less poverty, less crime", said Taitelbaum.

According to figures by the Departamento de Investigación y Estadística de la Dirección General de Adaptación Social, of the 15 country's prisons, 11 are overpopulated.

The Liberia prison is the most overpopulated with a prison population exceeding capacity by 24%. while the Puntarenas prison is the least overpopulated, with only 8%.

The only prisons that are not overpopulated and has space for criminals is the women's prison, El Buen Pastor and the prison for the elderly, the Centro de Atención Institucional Adulto Mayor.

The Defensoría argues that the overpopulation means that many prisoners, for lack of beds, have to sleep on the floors on bad deteriorated foams, under beds of other prisoners and in the bathrooms.

The overpopulation also raises the question of health risks, many prisoners claiming that they have to wait months for medical attention.

The overpopulation also causes problems with nutrition and feeding, including the amount of food that each prisoner receives, and job opportunities within the school prison system and problems of cohabitation, with arguments and fights breaking out between inmates being confined together in close quarters.

The overpopulation problem has increased the number of fights between prisoners for being confined together in close quarters, and and increase in suicides.

Last week alone, two inmates at the La Reforma prison killed each other in a fight. Prison officials say that on average two inmates per month take their own lives, while another two are murdered.


The rise in crime and the efforts by police to combat it has meant an overpopulation of Costa Rica's jail, that has become a serious problem and one that is being tackled by the Costa Rica's ombudswoman, Ofelia Taitelbaum.

The head of the Defensora de Los Habitantes is criticizing the governments handling of the overpopulation problem and is calling for a new public criminal policy, according to the needs of the country.

Currenlty there is a capacity for only 8.225 prisoners in the country's prison system. However, the number prisoners at current count is 9.304, or 1.000 more than capacity.

The ombudswoman points out that between December 2008 and December 2009 only 330 new spots were created in the penitentiary system, meanwhile the number of prisoners grew by 1.079, or three times more.

Taitelbaum points out that the prison shortage problem is not just the responsibility of the Ministerio de Justicia, the government agency that runs the penitentiary system, but that of other government agencies to reduce crime and better ecomomic and social conditions.

"Less poverty, less crime", said Taitelbaum.

According to figures by the Departamento de Investigación y Estadística de la Dirección General de Adaptación Social, of the 15 country's prisons, 11 are overpopulated.

The Liberia prison is the most overpopulated with a prison population exceeding capacity by 24%. while the Puntarenas prison is the least overpopulated, with only 8%.

The only prisons that are not overpopulated and has space for criminals is the women's prison, El Buen Pastor and the prison for the elderly, the Centro de Atención Institucional Adulto Mayor.

The Defensoría argues that the overpopulation means that many prisoners, for lack of beds, have to sleep on the floors on bad deterioated foams, under beds of other prisoners and in the bathrooms.

The overpopulation also raises the question of health risks, many prisoners claiming that they have to wait months for medical attention.

The overpopulation also cuases problems with nutrition and feeding, including the amount of food that each prisoner receives, and job opportunities within the school prison system and problems of cohabitation, with arguments and fights breaking out between inmates being confined together in close quarters.

The overpopulation problem has increased the number of fights between prisoners for being confined together in close quarters, and and increase in suicides.

Last week alone, two inmates at the La Reforma prison killed each other in a fight. Prison officials say that on average two inmates per month take their own lives, while another two are murdered.

The ministro de Justicia y Gracia, Hernando París, admits that the system is in "crisis".

What is in store for the future?

Increased overcrowding, a result of Presidenta Laura Chinchilla's push to tighten security and combat crime. The presidenta's plan includes introducing two new courts to quickly try criminals "en flagranti" - caught in the act.

There are plans to build new prisons in Limón, Puntarenas, Liberia, Alajuela and Pérez Zeledón, which would house up to 700 prisoners and plans are in the works to renovate the current prison to allow for 1.300 more beds.

But, like many government plans, the process is slow and the prison problem is not a subject that many politicians want to tackle.

One of the major stumbling block to the increase the prison system is one of finances. The country is barely getting by with the current resources, with the problems of road and bridge infrastructure and many other social issues, the prison problem takes second seat.

However, if anyone understands the problem faced by ministro Paris, is presidenta Chinchilla herself, for she once held the post as the country's ministra de Justicia y Gracia.

 







 
 
 
 
 

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