Ecuador’s prisons destroyed by state abandonment -IACHR

FILE PHOTO: People gather after violence at Penitenciaria del Litoral prison in Guayaquil
FILE PHOTO: A woman reacts outside the Judicial Police station after prisoners were killed and injured in nighttime violence at the Penitenciaria del Litoral prison in Guayaquil, Ecuador on November 13, 2021. REUTERS/Santiago Arcos

March 17, 2022

By Alexandra Valencia

QUITO (Reuters) – Ecuador’s prison system, marred by the abandonment of the state and the lack of a comprehensive policy, faces unprecedented levels of violence and corruption, as well as poor conditions for inmates, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) said on Thursday.

An IACHR delegation visited Ecuador in December after violent clashes in prisons across the country killed 316 prisoners in 2021, up from 46 deaths the year before, a nearly seven-fold increase.

In a report, the organization found that the overuse of preventive detention is contributing to greater prison overcrowding, while budget cuts, resulting in job losses for prison staff, are weakening the system.

“What has existed for several decades is a function of the prison system, and that function has led to this high level of violence,” Stuardo Ralon, IACHR vice president of the organization’s representative for Ecuador, said in an interview with Reuters.

The Ecuadorian government did not immediately respond to questions about the IACHR’s findings.

Ecuador must coordinate measures to combat violence, achieve the social reintegration of prisoners and regain control of prisons, Ralon added.

Ecuador’s prisons are characterized by overcrowding, 15% overcapacity and poor living conditions for the country’s 35,000 inmates.

President Guillermo Lasso last year declared a state of emergency for Ecuador’s entire prison system and deployed the country’s armed forces to assist police in policing prisons.

Lasso is pushing ahead with a plan he says will reduce prison violence, which includes cracking down on gangs, pardoning criminals in special cases, repatriating foreign prisoners, and legal reform.

A lack of state authority in particularly violent areas in Ecuador’s prisons may have helped criminal gangs gain control of prisons, the IACHR report added.

(Reporting by Alexandra Valencia; Writing by Oliver Griffin; Editing by Aurora Ellis) Ecuador’s prisons destroyed by state abandonment -IACHR

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