The Observatorio Venezolano de Prisiones [Venezuelan Prison Watch] (OVP) released some statistics on the dire condition of the country’s prison system, and in particular the situation in Caracas region.
According to the NGO’s statistics, Venezuela’s prison infrastructure is only able to house 23,000 prisoners, and yet the country’s penal population is currently sitting at over 100,000. As a result of overcrowded prisons, inmates are often housed in overcrowded jails, which are smaller sites often attached to local police stations.
OVP’s figures show that the 30 jails in Vargas and Miranda states are currently operating at 461% capacity, making for hellish conditions for prisoners. Unlike prisons, which tend to hold individuals who have already been convicted, jails often hold individuals who have not yet been charged or found guilty.
OVP claims that, for example, the police jail in Los Salias, Miranda state is currently holding 26 prisoners, even though the facility has a maximum occupancy of 12. In the jail in the Guaicaipuro municipality in the same state, a jail built for 70 prisoners is currently holding 120.
Such is the severity of the overcrowding that it is not unusual for police jails to house inmates in offices or even inside patrol cars, claims OVP. The NGO also points out that the lack of space in jails also results in inmates simply being handcuffed to furniture in common areas order to prevent them from escaping.
According to El Nacional, part of the reason for the overcrowded jails is the fact that Minister of Penitentiaries Iris Varela has ordered police organizations to house inmates in the facilities for indefinite amounts of time, a fact that is contrary to Venezuelan law. According to Article 373 of the Penal Process Code, jails can only house individuals for a maximum of 96 hours.
Valera served as Minister of Penitentiaries from 2011 until June of this year. As one of the more belligerent members of the PSUV, Valera is often featured in national media launching toxic attacks against anyone who dares to question the operation of the penal system.
Just four days ago, Valera gave a disjointed speech at the Constituent Assembly in which she lashed out against critics of the Venezuelan prison system, calling them “motherfuckers”.
Maduro Asks Constituent Assembly for “Relentless” Anti-Terror Laws
During his weekly television show Los Domingos con Maduro, Maduro called on the Constituent Assembly to draft “relentless” laws against individuals his regime considers to be terrorists, namely opposition leaders and their supporters.
While calling for the more severe laws, Maduro lashed out at the opposition, saying that they were interested only int he destruction of the country and the Venezuelan people. Maduro said:
They [the opposition] do not hold electoral campaigns. They wage war against the people. The Venezuelan right wing is not democratic, rational. It is not a political alternative. [It does not have] a project [to] improve the country. No. When they get into electoral campaigns, they launch a war: they sabotage the electrical grid,public services, gasoline, everything that they can sabotage… the bank system, everything, so that people will get angry…
Saying that the Venezuelan opposition represented “madness, disorientation, chaos, violence, and terrorism”, Maduro made his call for tougher laws to target his opponents by saying:
I ask the National Constituent Assembly to reform the Penal Code and the National security Law quickly, please, and to raise the penalties to punish all of these events that threaten the lives of people, to qualify them as terrorist acts and for there to be no benefits for anyone involved, captured [sic], or those who participate in acts of sabotage against the electrical, water, bank, etc., etc. [systems]. This must be done immediately.
Maduro suggested that anyone his regime deems a terrorist could face the following sanctions:
… severe prison sentences, bans from participating in electoral processes. That is legal. That is constitutional.
Since installing the National Constituent Assembly on July 30, the Maduro regime has taken an incontrovertible hard turn towards authoritarianism.
Journalists Freed After Attempting to Sneak Into Prison
The three journalists arrested two days ago while attempting to sneak into the Tocoron prison were released without condition today, according to the National Syndicate of Press Workers (SNTP).
The journalists–two from Italy and one from Venezuela–were intercepted by authorities while trying to enter the prison in Aragua state. At the time of their arrest, the trio carried cell phones and recording equipment, which the authorities confiscated.
According to the SNTP, the journalists had in fact entered the prison legally and with the authorities’ permission, but were still arrested for reasons that are not known.
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