Colombia’s prison authorities have moved to “retake” a section of the country’s most notorious prison, after reports emerged of the luxury lifestyles of the wealthy inmates living there.
Colombia’s National Penitentiary and Prison Institute (INPEC) raided what is popularly known as the “parapolitics” wing of Bogota’s La Picota prison, following revelations that one inmate, corrupt contractor Emilio Tapia, had remodelled his cell, reported El Tiempo.
Tapia had reportedly put in new flooring, painted the walls, and installed a hot water shower and TV.
According to a report on the raid obtained by El Tiempo, INPEC agents were forced to smash windows and even brought in a locksmith to gain access to numerous cells after the prisoners, who had their own keys, refused to unlock the doors.
The operation turned up numerous perks enjoyed by the inmates, including liquor stored in refrigerators. Despite the crackdown, INPEC have allowed the wing’s hairdressers and massage parlour to continue operating for their “therapeutic” benefits.
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La Picota’s “parapolitics” wing — dubbed after the scandal which saw many white collar criminals jailed for ties with paramilitary groups — has long been a source of scandalous tales about outrageous behavior.
One of its most infamous inmates was Juan Carlos Martinez, a former senator convicted of ties to paramilitaries and drug trafficking. While incarcerated in La Picota, Martinez managed to stage a two-day long birthday party for 34 guests, and expanded his cell into a luxury pad by knocking through the wall into the adjacent room.
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In 2012, the ex-senator was subsequently transferred out of La Picota, prompting the then-head of the prison to declare that had been a “certain laxity” in enforcing the rules, but this had been “corrected.”
However, by 2013, new stories had leaked, regarding the disgraced former mayor of Bogota and ex-senator, Ivan Moreno. According to Semana, Moreno smuggled in domestic help and closed off the corridor outside his cell so he could have a reception area and a game room for his children.
It remains to be seen whether these latest efforts to bring La Picota’s “parapolitics” wing under control will be successful. For the moment, it remains a symbol not only of Colombia’s dysfunctional prisons, but also of a two-tiered justice system where money buys privilege.
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