Over 50% of Incarcerated in Honduras in Pre-trial Detention: NGO

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A report from a non-governmental human rights organization highlights the poor conditions of Honduras’ prisons, an issue exacerbated by judicial delays and the practice of pre-trail detention, which has led to severe overcrowding.

According to the annual report for 2014 (pdf) from Honduras’ National Commission for Human Rights (CONADEH), Honduras’ 24 adult penitentiaries (see chart below) hold 14,805 prisoners. Of these, 6,692 (45.2 percent) have been sentenced, while 7,925 (53.5 percent) are being held in pre-trial detention.

Using prisons for pre-trial detention has led to severe overcrowding: prison capacity is 8,000. Other issues CONADEH documented include: lack of a proper diet; poor medical attention; lack of professional attention for prisoners (i.e., psychologists and social workers); deficient police and prison security guards; the presence of drugs, alcohol, and weapons; and, violence.

While CONADEH acknowledged efforts have been made in recent years to improve prison conditions, investigators found little has changed overall, and that in some prisons, conditions had gotten worse.

Honduras prison population

InSight Crime Analysis

Honduras’ prisons are notorious for their abysmal conditions. In 2013, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) — part of the Organization of American States (OAS) — released a report (pdf) deploring the state of the country’s prison system, calling it “dehumanized, miserly, and corrupt.”

SEE ALSO: Coverage of Prisons

Honduras’ depraved prison conditions are, in part, the result of overcrowding. The problem came from tough “Mano Dura” (Iron First) security policies, strict sentencing guidelines, and the use of prisons as pre-trail detention facilities — whereby prisons are filled with inmates whose cases have yet to be adjudicated.

The problems in the prisons are related to the larger problem of the justice in Honduras. The country’s judicial system is simply unable to quickly and effectively investigate alleged criminals, creating a backlog of cases that keeps those accused of crimes languishing in the country’s prisons, sometimes for years. 

The problem is compounded because the prisons are breeding grounds for street gangs and finishing schools for criminals. Sophisticated extortion schemes are, for example, run from prisons.

The issue of pre-trial detention leading to prison overcrowding is a problem in countries throughout Latin America. The governments claim they face budget constraints, but that is simply the result of the little political will on the part of politicians and elites to invest in the prison and judicial systems.

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