A scene from a violent riot in Venezuela's Uribana prison

Venezuela has implemented new regulations in 14 of the country's prisons in an attempt to reform the notoriously violent penal system, although it remains to be seen whether the measures will be enforced effectively. 

Under the new regulations, prisoners will receive job training and participate in monitored group activities, wear uniforms, and be granted two official visits per month and one phone call per week. Venezuela's Prison Minister Iris Varela said the new system was intended to help protect the inmates' human rights, adding that they were "receiving attention for complete transformation and social reinsertion." According to Varela, inmates have no access to weapons.

Among the jails testing the new system is a prison in Miranda, one of Venezuela's most violent states. Some of the other jails are located in the states of Merida, Lara, and Tachira.

The government has also pledged 153 million bolivares ($24.3 million, according to the official Venezuelan exchange rate) towards repairing the Uribana jail, where a major massacre occurred in January, and 51 million bolivares ($8.1 million) toward improvements and repairs to 10 other jails.

InSight Crime Analysis

When Varela was appointed as Venezuela's first prison minister in 2011, she promised widespread reforms with a "humanist" approach to one of the world's most brutal prison systems. However, attempts at reform have failed to address the severe violence in many of the country's prisons, where over 500 prisoners died during the first year after the creation of the Prison Ministry. Over 100 firearms were found following the Uribana prison massacre, pointing to a lack of control over these institutions.

The reforms being tested in the 14 prisons are unlikely to have the desired impact unless they move to address major concerns, including corruption, overcrowding, and poor training among prison guards. Prisons are often run by gang leaders, known as "pranes," who run black market economies that help fuel inmate violence, thanks in large part to corrupt wardens.

Though Varela claims that the ministry has made progress in controlling the prison system, the Inter-American Human Rights Commission (CIDH) reported in June that "serious structural deficiencies" continued to affect the human rights of prisoners.

Investigations

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 6
  • 7
  • 8
  • 9
  • 10
Prev Next

Ivan Rios Bloc: the FARC's Most Vulnerable Fighting Division

Ivan Rios Bloc: the FARC's Most Vulnerable Fighting Division

When considering the possibilities that the FARC may break apart, the Ivan Rios Bloc is a helpful case study because it is perhaps the weakest of the FARC's divisions in terms of command and control, and therefore runs the highest risk of fragmentation and criminalization.

Barrio 18 Leader 'Viejo Lin' on El Salvador Gang Truce

Barrio 18 Leader 'Viejo Lin' on El Salvador Gang Truce

Barrio 18 leader Carlos Lechuga Mojica, alias "El Viejo Lin," is one of the most prominent spokesmen for El Salvador's gang truce. InSight Crime co-director Steven Dudley spoke with Mojica in Cojutepeque prison in October 2012 about how the maras view the controversial peace process, which has...

The FARC and the Drug Trade: Siamese Twins?

The FARC and the Drug Trade: Siamese Twins?

The FARC have always had a love-hate relationship with drugs. They love the money it brings, funds which have allowed them to survive and even threaten to topple the state at the end of the 1990s. They hate the corruption and stigma narcotics have also brought to...

MS-13's 'El Barney': A Trend or an Isolated Case?

MS-13's 'El Barney': A Trend or an Isolated Case?

In October 2012, the US Treasury Department designated the Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) as a transnational criminal organization (TCO). While this assertion seems unfounded, there is one case that illustrates just why the US government is worried about the future.

The FARC 2002-Present: Decapitation and Rebirth

The FARC 2002-Present: Decapitation and Rebirth

In August 2002, the guerrillas of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) greeted Colombia's new president with a mortar attack that killed 14 people during his inauguration. The attack was intended as a warning to the fiercely anti-FARC newcomer. But it became the opening salvo of...

Criminalization of FARC Elements Inevitable

Criminalization of FARC Elements Inevitable

While there is no doubt that the FARC have only a tenuous control over some of their more remote fronts, there is no evidence of any overt dissident faction within the movement at the moment.

The FARC 1964-2002: From Ragged Rebellion to Military Machine

The FARC 1964-2002: From Ragged Rebellion to Military Machine

On May 27, 1964 up to one thousand Colombian soldiers, backed by fighter planes and helicopters, launched an assault against less than fifty guerrillas in the tiny community of Marquetalia. The aim of the operation was to stamp out once and for all the communist threat in...

'Chepe Luna,' the Police and the Art of Escape

'Chepe Luna,' the Police and the Art of Escape

The United States -- which through its antinarcotics, judicial and police attaches was very familiar with the routes used for smuggling, and especially those used for people trafficking and understood that those traffickers are often one and the same -- greeted the new government of Elias Antonio...

The Reality of the FARC Peace Talks in Havana

The Reality of the FARC Peace Talks in Havana

If we are to believe the Colombian government, the question is not if, but rather when, an end to 50 years of civil conflict will be reached. Yet the promise of President Juan Manuel Santos that peace can be achieved before the end of 2014 is simply...

The Infiltrators: Corruption in El Salvador's Police

The Infiltrators: Corruption in El Salvador's Police

Ricardo Mauricio Menesses Orellana liked horses, and the Pasaquina rodeo was a great opportunity to enjoy a party. He was joined at the event -- which was taking place in the heart of territory controlled by El Salvador's most powerful drug transport group, the Perrones -- by the...