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Wed Nov 12, 2014, 04:21 PM

As bad as it gets; a glimpse inside Colombia’s 10 worst prisons

As bad as it gets; a glimpse inside Colombia’s 10 worst prisons
Nov 11, 2014 posted by Victoria McKenzie

After a year of strikes by both prisoners and guards alike in protest of dangerous conditions and human rights violations, Colombia’s ombudsman prepared a report on the nation’s most overcrowded penitentiaries.

The ombudsman’s report was released amid an ongoing judiciary strike and debates over the elimination of pre-trial detentions, as prisons across the country contend with up t0 478% overcrowding.

1. Riohacha prison – Riohacha, La Guajira

First place goes to the medium-security penitentiary in Colombia’s northernmost state of La Guajira, where the population exceeds maximum capacity by 478%. According to the ombudsman, showers and toilets remain in deplorable conditions, water is only available four hours a day, and there is only one health professional available for all inmates (four hours a day from Monday-Friday). Additionally, a 20-year old power plant that needs repair is cause for a high risk of short-circuit.

2. Santa Marta prison – Santa Marta, Bolivar

The second most overcrowded prison in the country is Santa Marta with a capacity for 312 inmates and a population of 1,393. Inside the 70 year old building there is only one hall, divided into 5 sections. The building is “100% deteriorated,” and there was a short-circuit in July of this year.

3. Magangue prison – Magangue, Bolivar

Just to the east is the Magangue prison in the northern state of Bolivar, where 249 inmates are being held if a building with a maximum capacity for 56. Special treatment units and bathrooms have been converted into bedrooms, there is no internal medical service, and there have been delays in urgent surgeries of up to one year

4. Valledupar prison – Valledupar, Cesar

The Valledupar prison in Cesar has the capacity for 256 inmates and a population of 954, with overcrowding by 273%. It lacks an adequate water system to allow continual service, and is flooded in several areas. There have been over 300 write of protection filed for failing to authorize medical service.

5. Villahermosa prison – Cali, Valle del Cauca

Cali’s Villahermosa prison holds 6,128 inmates with a capacity for 1,667, meaning that overcrowding is at 267%. There is on average one shower and one toilet for every 200 inmates, medication shortages, and a short psychiatric visit once a month for the 75 prisoners in the Mental Health Unit.


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