HomeNewsBriefEcuador Jails Swell with Pretrial Detentions, Cocaine Trafficking
BRIEF

Ecuador Jails Swell with Pretrial Detentions, Cocaine Trafficking

ECUADOR / 12 DEC 2013 BY MARGUERITE CAWLEY EN

The prison population in Ecuador has risen dramatically in the past four years, a phenomenon tied to the overuse of preventive detention, but also likely linked to the country’s ever-growing importance as a drug transit nation.

In October 2007, the country registered 19,500 prisoners, which the country’s prosecutor general called a “record number,” according to El Comercio. The Organization of American States (OAS) reported a 2007 total of 18,675 prisoners, 

By 2009, the total number of prisoners in Ecuador had dropped to 10,881, according to OAS figures. Since then, the prison population has shot up again, reaching 24,203 prisoners as of October 2013, reported El Comercio.

Just taking El Comercio’s numbers, this represents a 122 percent increase on the population of four years ago, and is 96 percent higher than the current official capacity of the system, 12,338. (See El Comercio’s graphic below)

Professor Jaime Vintimilla of the San Francisco University in Quito said the growing prison population was related to the excessive use of preventive detention measures for suspects who had not yet been convicted. As of December 2012, 37 percent of Ecuador’s prisoners were pre-trial detainees, according to figures from the International Centre for Prison Studies.ecuadorprisonpopulation

InSight Crime Analysis

The overpopulation of prisons is a regional phenomenon in Latin America, and has led to major human rights concerns and a lack of control over the prison systems in countries including Mexico, Venezuela and El Salvador. This is often connected to excessive and lengthy pre-trial detention periods, failings in the justice system and overly harsh penalties for minor crimes.

SEE ALSO: Coverage of Prisons

However, in Ecuador the growing prison population is likely influenced by another factor: its status as a major transit nation for illicit drugs. Despite the dip in 2009, the overall growth in the number of prisoners has coincided with increased cocaine seizures in recent years, which rose from 14.8 tons in 2010, according to the US State Department, to 53 tons this year (through November 2013).

The country has also become a veritable United Nations of crime. The most recent police operations in various of the country’s ports in the last few days resulted in a haul of over 900 kilos of cocaine and the arrest of 10 suspects, including Colombians, Cubans and a Chinese national, reported AFP

While pre-trial detention is clearly an important factor affecting Ecuador’s prison system, the presence of transnational criminal groups and the country’s use as a drug transit point is also a likely contributor to the rising prison population.

Compartir icon icon icon

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.

Related Content

BRAZIL / 10 JAN 2018

This year, InSight Crime put a special focus on how prisons in Latin America interact with organized crime,…

ECUADOR / 18 MAR 2014

More than 2,000 working-class families in an Ecuador slum were tricked into buying small plots of land that were never…

BRAZIL / 24 MAR 2020

Fears of contagion amid the coronavirus pandemic have spurred deadly riots, mass breakouts, and crackdowns in several Latin American prisons,…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

We Have Updated Our Website

4 FEB 2021

Welcome to our new home page. We have revamped the site to create a better display and reader experience.

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime Events – Border Crime: The Northern Triangle and Tri-Border Area

ARGENTINA / 25 JAN 2021

Through several rounds of extensive field investigations, our researchers have analyzed and mapped out the main illicit economies and criminal groups present in 39 border departments spread across the six countries of study – the Northern Triangle trio of Guatemala, Honduras, and El…

BRIEF

InSight Crime’s ‘Memo Fantasma’ Investigation Wins Simón Bolívar National Journalism Prize

COLOMBIA / 20 NOV 2020

The staff at InSight Crime was awarded the prestigious Simón Bolívar national journalism prize in Colombia for its two-year investigation into the drug trafficker known as “Memo Fantasma,” which was…

ANALYSIS

InSight Crime – From Uncovering Organized Crime to Finding What Works

COLOMBIA / 12 NOV 2020

This project began 10 years ago as an effort to address a problem: the lack of daily coverage, investigative stories and analysis of organized crime in the Americas. …

ANALYSIS

InSight Crime – Ten Years of Investigating Organized Crime in the Americas

FEATURED / 2 NOV 2020

In early 2009, Steven Dudley was in Medellín, Colombia. His assignment: speak to a jailed paramilitary leader in the Itagui prison, just south of the city. Following his interview inside…