Peru Protests Against Prison Expansion, Despite Desperate Overcrowding

Violent protests in southern Peru over the proposed expansion of a local prison call attention to the need for prison reform across the country, which holds 49,000 inmates in a system built for 28,000.

On December 2, demonstrators rallying against a prison expansion plan clashed with police in Cañete province, just south of Lima. At least one person was killed and another 20 injured, reports the BBC.

The government is trying to push through a plan to improve a high-security prison in Cañete, which houses many convicts transferred from Lima. The facility is home to 3,200 inmates even though it was designed for 800.

Cañete residents say they don’t want more convicts transferred to their district capital, a popular tourist destination with Peruvians.

According to El Comercio, many of Peru’s 66 prisons are overcrowded and lack inmate services, like doctors and counselors, as well as basic facilities like guard towers. Peru’s prisons can accommodate some 28,000 inmates, but the actual prison population is closer to 49,000.

The protests in Cañete come amid upheaval in many areas of the country, as local populations clash with the government over development projects. Analyst James Bosworth has identified the issue as a problem of balancing projects in the national interest against local concerns. President Ollanta Humala recently declared a state of emergency in another province, where protesters are challenging a U.S. gold-and-copper mine project worth some $5 billion.