According to a report, Venezuelan prison authorities failed to notice that 27 inmates escaped in late September, more evidence of the country’s dysfunctional penal system.
Local newspaper Correo del Caroni quoted an anonymous source as saying that the inmates escaped from Vista Hermosa prison in Bolivar state on either September 22 or 23. However, prison authorities only recently noticed that the inmates were missing during a headcount, the source told the newspaper.
Like many of Venezuela’s prisons, Vista Hermosa is desperately overcrowded: it was built to house 650 inmates, but currently contains over 1,400. Meanwhile, there are just 30 prison guards in the facility, according to Correo del Caroni’s report.
Prison escapes are not uncommon occurrences in Venezuela. In April 2014, 19 inmates reportedly escaped from Vista Hermosa prison, according to Correo del Caroni. More recently, in September 2015, some 43 detainees slipped away from two police stations in capital city Caracas, reported El Universal.
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As highlighted in a recent report by investigative online news site Runrun.es, the creation of Venezuela’s Prison Ministry in 2011 has done little to establish order over the country’s chaotic prisons, let alone improve conditions for inmates. Between 2011 to 2014, a total of 1,966 inmates have died in prison riots, with another 3,100 people injured.
Venezuela Prison Minister Iris Varela promised a more humanist approach to prison reform when she appointed head of the newly-created ministry in 2011. The ministry implemented new regulations in over a dozen prisons in 2013, reportedly giving inmates access to job training and requiring the use of uniforms. However, there is little information on whether these regulations have been implemented successfully.
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As pointed out by Venezuelan Politics and Human Rights, the problem with Venezuela’s prison policy isn’t so much an issue of political will, but has more to do with execution. Four years after the Prison Ministry was established, the government still hasn’t been able to establish control over the prison system. Instead, crimes bosses known as “pranes” act as the de facto rulers over Venezuela’s inmates, the majority of whom are being held in pre-trial detention.