HomeNewsBrief1000 Venezuelan Inmates Escaped in 2012: NGO
BRIEF

1000 Venezuelan Inmates Escaped in 2012: NGO

PRISONS / 7 SEP 2012 BY CLAIRE O'NEILL MCCLESKEY EN

An estimated 1,000 prisoners have escaped from Venezuelan prisons this year, according to one NGO that monitors the country's penitentiaries, reflecting the chaotic state of the country’s violent, overcrowded penal system.

An investigation by Venezuelan NGO A Window to Freedom (Una Ventana a la Libertad) found that no prisons in Venezuela conduct daily censuses keep track of their inmate populations, leading to poor oversight and little accountability regarding prisoner escapes. Based on sources within the prison system, the NGO estimates that at least 1,000 inmates have escaped since the start of the year.

Escaping from prison requires large amounts of money to bribe prison officials, newspaper El Universal notes, though the amount varies depending on institution. This means that those who manage to escape are usually prison bosses, known as “pranes,” inmates who use their positions of power to collect a weekly "fee" from fellow prisoners and run extortion and kidnapping rackets outside the prison walls.

A Window to Freedom has demanded greater investigation into the guards and wardens of prisons from which inmates have escaped and urged the Ministry of Penitentiary Services (MPPSP) to begin overseeing the daily count of prisoners.

InSight Crime Analysis

While many other countries in Latin America suffer from overcrowded, underfunded penitentiary systems, the Venezuelan prison system is one of the most violent in the region.

In response to multiple violent prison riots, such as the June 2011 inmate takeover of El Rodeo II prison, the government created the Ministry of Penitentiary Services in mid-2011 to tackle overcrowding. Upon her appointment in July of last year, Prison Minister Iris Varela announced that she would take a “humanist approach” to prison reform, promising to implement education, sports, and culture programs for inmates. She also explained her ministry’s plan to reclassify prisoners according to the crimes they committed, allowing up to 40 percent of inmates to be released immediately and easing the burden on overcrowded prisons.

So far, however, evidence suggests that the reforms have failed to reduce violence and overcrowding. In the year since the government set up the new ministry, over 500 inmates died, 1,967 were injured, and the prison system has continued to run at 340 percent capacity.

According to the Venezuelan Prison Observatory (OVP), the state only controls six out of the country’s 34 prisons. In the others, the “pranes” and their gangs have near total control over prison life, allowing them to smuggle in weapons, drugs, and even women. In some prisons, the underground economies can reach into the millions of dollars.

share icon icon icon

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

What are your thoughts? Click here to send InSight Crime your comments.

We encourage readers to copy and distribute our work for non-commercial purposes, with attribution to InSight Crime in the byline and links to the original at both the top and bottom of the article. Check the Creative Commons website for more details of how to share our work, and please send us an email if you use an article.

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

Related Content

COLOMBIA / 29 MAY 2015

Authorities in Colombia have reportedly started using armed helicopters to stop gasoline smugglers crossing the border from Venezuela, an aggressive…

CARTEL OF THE SUNS / 8 MAY 2019

Venezuela's social conflict and violence may be even more complicated a week after the failed military uprising led by Juan…

ARMS TRAFFICKING / 27 JAN 2014

Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro has announced the creation of "peace zones" and his justice minister said the government should consider stricter gun…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

Environmental and Academic Praise

17 JUN 2022

InSight Crime’s six-part series on the plunder of the Peruvian Amazon continues to inform the debate on environmental security in the region. Our Environmental Crimes Project Manager, María Fernanda Ramírez,…

LA ORGANIZACIÓN

Series on Plunder of Peru’s Amazon Makes Headlines

10 JUN 2022

Since launching on June 2, InSight Crime’s six-part series on environmental crime in Peru’s Amazon has been well-received. Detailing the shocking impunity enjoyed by those plundering the rainforest, the investigation…

THE ORGANIZATION

Duarte’s Death Makes Waves

3 JUN 2022

The announcement of the death of Gentil Duarte, one of the top dissident commanders of the defunct Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), continues to reverberate in Venezuela and Colombia.

THE ORGANIZATION

Cattle Trafficking Acclaim, Investigation into Peru’s Amazon 

27 MAY 2022

On May 18, InSight Crime launched its most recent investigation into cattle trafficking between Central America and Mexico. It showed precisely how beef, illicitly produced in Honduras, Guatemala…

THE ORGANIZATION

Coverage of Fallen Paraguay Prosecutor Makes Headlines

20 MAY 2022

The murder of leading anti-crime prosecutor, Marcelo Pecci, while on honeymoon in Colombia, has drawn attention to the evolution of organized crime in Paraguay. While 17 people have been arrested…