HomeNewsBriefCourt Rules El Salvador Prison Crowding Unconstitutional
BRIEF

Court Rules El Salvador Prison Crowding Unconstitutional

BARRIO 18 / 8 JUN 2016 BY SEAN TJADEN EN

El Salvador’s high court declared conditions in the country’s overcrowded prisons unconstitutional in a ruling with implications for the government’s hard line policies aimed at defeating gangs.

The Supreme Court of Justice in a June 3 ruling  (pdf) said conditions in prisons around the country “violate the fundamental right of personal integrity” of inmates. The court’s press release said that on average, 30 to 40 inmates are housed in a space measuring 10.2 square meters. That averages out to about 0.28 square meters (3 square feet) per person.  

The numbers indicate that El Salvador has the most crowed prisons in the region, followed by Cuba and Panama, according to a report based on data from the Institute for Criminal Policy Research.

The inhumane conditions violate Article 11 of El Salvador’s constitution, which gives inmates the right to dignified detention. The court ordered the construction of new facilities as well as the adaptation of existing prisons to better accommodate inmates.

SEE MORE: El Salvador News and Profiles

The court also insisted that the relevant judges “urgently carry out the work of identifying which prisoners should no longer continue in detention” in an attempt to lessen the burden on the federal prison system.

The ruling ordered the Health Ministry to conduct periodic medical visits in the prison system to evaluate the sanitary and medical needs of the detained population.

Insight Crime Analysis

Any revision of El Salvador prison structure could have far reaching implications. The leadership of the two major gangs in the country, Mara Salvatrucha (MS13) and Barrio 18, have long directed the gangs’ activities from behind bars.

The government had already implemented emergency measures aimed at isolating imprisoned gang leaders from their their rank and file membership in the crowded facilities and in the streets. Officials have also announced plans to release non-violent offenders and to build low-security facilities for other inmates not affiliated with the gangs.

It is unlikely that the emergency measures and an ongoing crackdown on gangs in the streets -- which also has been beset by criticism of human rights violations -- can achieve the government’s highly optimistic goal of bringing these massive criminal organizations under control within a year.   However, the broader prison reforms mandated by the Supreme Court might be a significant step toward fostering a more sustainable, albeit gradual, solution to El Salvador’s enduring gang problem.

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

EL SALVADOR / 15 FEB 2021

Hopes are high in the Northern Triangle, that the arrival of Joseph Biden and his administration to the White House…

BRAZIL / 19 JUL 2012

The Brazilian government announced a new program whereby prisoners can reduce their sentences by up to 48 days per year…

BARRIO 18 / 30 JAN 2013

A Salvadoran judge said that 90 percent of the organized crime cases he has dealt with in the last six…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

Who Are Memo Fantasma and Sergio Roberto de Carvalho?

24 JUN 2022

Inside the criminal career of Memo Fantasma  In March 2020, InSight Crime revealed the identity and whereabouts of Memo Fantasma, a paramilitary commander and drug trafficker living in…

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…