El Salvador’s Youth Offenders Centers Could Cause Rise in Crime: Official

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La Prensa Grafica reports on the poor state of centers for the rehabilitation of young offenders in El Salvador, which officials warn could contribute to a rise in crime.

The centers visited by the newspaper were highly overcrowded, according to the report, with poor food, facilities, and a lack of education for the inmates. None of them had programs to treat drug addiction.

ISNA, the government body charged with running the centers, has $1.4 million to spend on the 662 adolescents in its care, who are divided into four centers.

The most prevelant crime the young offenders are charged with is extortion, which accounts for some 28 percent of the inmates, while 26 percent are accused of murder and 10 percent of robbery, with smaller numbers facing charges of drug trafficking or sexual assault.

Luis Salazar, head of ISNA, told La Prensa Grafica that the young offenders were kept in “inhumane” conditions, because of a lack of resources. He warned that “We are contributing to the growth in violence by keeping [the young people] in conditions of exclusion.”

On President Barack Obama’s visit to the country in March, he and Salvadoran leader Mauricio Funes agreed that a priority of aid from the US should be investment in social programs to cut crime. One of the main components of this is efforts to stop young people joining gangs.

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