Ecuador: lack of policy slows down the solution to the prison crisis

QUITO (HPD) — The lack of an effective rehabilitation policy in Ecuador is holding back the solution to the crisis in the prison system, which is facing a wave of violence on the rise since 2021, analysts diagnose, despite the fact that the Ecuadorian government defends its achievements in prison security .

Analía Silva, a 61-year-old Afro-descendant who was imprisoned twice for drug dealing, has overcome the exclusion and poverty that, she assured, led her to become involved in crime. But she did not do it with the help of the State but of civil organizations.

“The State does not rehabilitate,” he told The Associated Press and questioned a State that, he affirmed, “does not look at, does not help” Afro-descendant, indigenous or poor women who often “commit crimes because they have motives… When their partners leave, they stay with their children and don’t give them opportunities”.

Silva assured that her situation changed when she joined the organization “Mujeres de Frente” to which she belongs along with 60 other people and that provides support to women in vulnerable situations. With them she obtained a scholarship in political formation and collaborates with the organization in sewing and literacy workshops, among others. With her legal advice, she was also able to access a $240 state poverty bond that was given to her for her three orphaned grandchildren, whom she has cared for since the death of her daughter, victim of a femicide.

54% of the women detained in Ecuador have committed drug-related crimes, according to SNAI statistical records collected in an academic report on the diagnosis of the country’s prison situation in 2021 by the University of the Americas and the Kaleidos Interdisciplinary Ethnography Center. .

Prisons in Ecuador “are centers of dehumanization where there are no possibilities for rehabilitation,” Emilio Salao, a volunteer with the Alliance Against Prisons, which brings together various groups, told the HPD.

He added that “as long as we continue to have chronic malnutrition, as long as the educational systems are not reconsidered, as long as the health of all Ecuadorians is not guaranteed… we will continue to need prisons and we will continue to have massacres,” he opined.

Ecuador has 36 prisons, three of them called “mega prisons”, which hold between 4,000 and 7,000 inmates each and have been the scene of serious acts of violence.

Riots have become frequent in Ecuador’s prisons. According to figures from the Service for Attention to Persons Deprived of Liberty, last year 316 inmates were murdered by other prisoners, while so far in 2022 there have been around 120 homicides.

President Guillermo Lasso recently evaluated his government’s management in a television interview in which he stated that among the measures adopted to deal with the prison crisis, 1,469 guides were incorporated at the end of November, which doubled the number with which he found the system when he took office. May of last year.

But the current figure of more than 3,000 agents is still insufficient to reach the United Nations international standard that recommends one guide for every 10 prisoners.

Lasso also promoted a prison census that he described as “historic” and that determined a prison population of 31,319 deprived of liberty, which represents a decrease in prison overcrowding to 6% compared to 26% with which he found the system.

To decongest prisons, the president unlocked the delivery of pardons to those convicted of minor crimes, through two decrees that established requirements for their granting.

Until mid-2022, the official figure stood at 800 pardons granted, according to the head of state himself. To this, seven repatriations to Mexico and Panama are added, while in the first quarter of the current year there were 1,553 releases for prison benefits and habeas corpus, a resource to regain freedom.

The problem, Santiago Orbe, an analyst specializing in defense and security, told the HPD, is the break between the discourse and the line of action of the government, which has not specified a long-term security and rehabilitation policy but rather reacts “conjuncturally.”

A delegation from the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights that visited the country in December 2021 to verify the situation of those deprived of liberty pointed out in a report from February this year that 44% of persons deprived of liberty between the ages of 18 and 30 years are recidivists and do not have family support.

In turn, 71% of the prison population has basic education, while the majority comes from contexts with “high levels of violence, poverty, extreme poverty” and drug use from an early age.

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