Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Crime School

The current realization of President Correa (largely brought to his attention by the "sicario" (assassin-for-hire) murder of the Director of the Penitentiary last month):

There can be no just society without an effective Justice system.

The Guayaquil Penitentiary (Penitenciaria del Litoral) was built to accommodate 1,500-1,900 prisoners. Currently, 5,900 are trapped within its walls, sleeping on cement floors a foot away from each other, if they allow themselves to sleep at all in an environment where tension is suffused with fear and distrust.

The prison budget assigns each prisoner 75 cents a day for food. This is enough for one meal, prepared with the cheapest expired ingredients, every single inch of a chicken (whether it is edible or not), dirty water and the ever-present rice. Thus, the families of the prisoners are largely responsible for supplementing this diet, and they must make daily trips to bring plastic tubs full of food to their loved ones. Only those with families who care, who can afford this expense, and live in the city, enjoy this privilege. Others must rely on their ingenuity to bribe, steal or swindle someone for a bit of nourishment.

75% of the prisoners in the women's branch are for non-violent crimes (drug trafficking, mainly). This majority is true in the men's prison as well. Many of these people were merely mules, carrying packages from one person to the next for a price. The drug business doesn't care if they get caught, as they are completely expendable, hired help. They sit and wait for a chance to explain this to a judge.

Of the 16,000 penitentiary prisoners Ecuador keeps, 11,000 are awaiting trial.

What sort of rehabilitative environment exists in the Pen? Gangs. Crime and violence education (because if you didn't know how to before, you have to learn to defend yourself in this charged environment). The first thing that happens to you when you walk into the common area is you are attacked and all your clothes are stolen. Someone throws you some old shorts 7 sizes too big. You have to barter to find a piece of rope to tie them up with. You have entered a society where acquisition is so vital, and you have entered it with absolutely nothing. Of course crime breeds in this environment: it is a microcosm of the outside world.

President Correa is going to declare a state of emergency for the Justice system. This will allow him to seize funds that are frozen in other sectors and put them towards the prison system.

They need psychologists (there are none). They need rehabilitation education (there is none). They need fair trials. They need food and beds. They need to repatriate the thousands of foreign prisoners, so they they can be dealt with justly in their countries of origin. They need to completely replace the staff and guards: corruption has seeped through that organization too completely by now. They need to create records for each prisoner: no such system exists. They need to eliminate the double standard: "First category" prisoners in shirts and ties who pay monthly installments and are blessed with a 5 star prison experience.

Another huge task for you, Mr. President.

His popularity with the people is huge. His popularity with the press is dwindling, as he recently accused them of incarnating human misery. In his speech at the Penitentiary, he said

"I am here, not with the rich, not with the owners of the means of communication. What freedom of speech have you had, you who have never had a voice?"


katie said...

Ok, I wasn't sure about Correa before, but though I still wouldn't trust him, I kinda have to respect him now.

Timothy or Lillian said...

Thanks for this B. I am starting going into the prison in London starting next week. This keeps it all in perspective. Lets hope Correa can push through his plans.

Kent said...


Fascinating information on the justice system in Ecuador. Rule of law and justice. So important, so difficult to get right in any country.
Thank you for caring and helping me to care.