Officials in Peru have expressed concern about the lack of incarceration for suspected criminals after the Interior Minister revealed that fewer than five percent of those arrested end up in jail.
At a press conference on April 7, Interior Minister Jose Luis Perez Guadalupe stated that of the 992 people detained by the national police's Directorate of Criminal Investigation (Dirincri) in January and February in capital city Lima, only 42 are currently behind bars, reported El Comercio.
Perez added that the majority of the people arrested by the Dirincri had been caught in the act of committing a crime, and called the fact that only five percent end up in jail an "enormous failure," reported Peru 21.
To illustrate his point, Perez referred to an incident that occurred on April 1, when five assassins attacked the passengers of a Porsche with grenades and machine guns. As it turns out, two of the men involved in the attack had been arrested for drug and illegal weapons possession in November 2014, but were later allowed to go free while under investigation.
Perez stated that he would meet with Peru's Attorney General and other officials to determine whether or not the low incarceration rate was linked to corruption.
InSight Crime Analysis
The number of suspected criminals released after arrest in Peru highlights weaknesses in both the country's judiciary system and police force.
As suggested by Perez, considering the fact that most of the arrested suspects were reportedly caught red handed, the lack of incarceration could be linked to corruption. Examples of police misconduct abound in Peru. In a period of just one month last year, 200 police came under investigation for ties to a criminal network allegedly run by a former coronel, and over 20 were fired for allegedly collaborating with a drug trafficking organization. Police Director Jorge Flores recently stated that 9,720 police officers were sanctioned in 2014 -- 428 of them for corruption, reported La Republica. So far this year, a total of 2,625 police officers have been sanctioned.
The number of suspects freed after arrest also points to weaknesses in the country's judicial system. Both Peruvian and US officials have expressed concern about judicial corruption, with Peru's top anti-narcotics prosecutor stating last year that criminal organizations have infiltrated the judicial system.
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In addition to allowing suspected criminals to run free and potentially commit other crimes, the Dirincri's low incarceration rate also creates other problems such as providing a disincentive for potential witnesses to cooperate with prosecutors for fear of retaliation.
However, the other extreme -- indiscriminately using pre-trial detention -- presents its own set of issues. According to a report by the Open Society Justice Initiative of the Open Society Foundations, over 40 percent of all prisoners in Latin America are being held without a trial. The excessive use of pre-trial detention contributes to rampant overcrowding in prisons throughout the region and often violates the rights of suspects.