HomeNewsBriefNew Legislation Takes Aim at Overcrowding in Colombia's Prisons
BRIEF

New Legislation Takes Aim at Overcrowding in Colombia's Prisons

COLOMBIA / 9 OCT 2014 BY DAVID GAGNE EN

Colombia's Justice Ministry has announced legislative reforms that -- if passed -- would reduce the time prisoners can be held without having been convicted, a move aimed at reducing the severe overcrowding afflicting the country's prison system. 

On October 7, the government body announced that Justice Minister Yesid Reyes Alvarado will soon present to Congress a proposed legal amendment aimed at reducing the usage and length of pretrial detention in Colombia's justice system. Under the new proposal, anyone held for 18 months without a conviction would be freed, regardless of their crime, reported El Tiempo

According to the Justice Ministry, there are currently 43,000 prisoners held in Colombian jails who have yet to stand trial. According to Reyes Alvarado, this "has enormous repercussions for overcrowding levels in prisons, which are currently at 52 percent over capacity." 

The amendment is part of a larger package of proposals meant to reform the judicial system in the country, reported El Colombiano.

InSight Crime Analysis

The proposal takes aim at one of the biggest culprits for chronic prison overcrowding in Colombia, and in Latin America in general: the overuse of pretrial detention by overloaded judicial systems. According to Reyes Alvarado, Colombian prisons would be operating below full capacity if spaces were only filled by convicted criminals. According to a report by the Inter-American Commission for Human Rights (pdf), 34,571 prisoners in Colombia were being held without sentences as of December 2012, representing 30 percent of the 113,884 total inmates in the country.

 SEE ALSO: Coverage of Prisons

Aside from the obvious health and human rights issues, overcrowded prisons are also a security problem in Colombia. In January 2014, a riot in a prison operating at over double the legal capacity left 10 dead and 40 wounded. In September, it was revealed prisoners -- among them people arrested for homicide and armed robbery -- were being held in a park because there was no other place to put them.

Colombia has previously tried some alternative solutions to tackle overcrowding. Prior modifications to the penal code have made it harder for judges to incarcerate detainees, which resulted in less than 15 percent of all detainees ending up in prison during the first three months of 2014. 

The overuse of pretrial detention is hardly unique to Colombia: according to a September 2014 report by Open Society Foundations, over 80 percent of Bolivia's prison population has not been convicted of a crime, while Paraguay, Venezuela, and Uruguay all have pretrial detention rates of over 60 percent.

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 / 19 JUL 2012

Colombia's Constitutional Court has approved a government bill to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of cocaine and marijuana, reversing…

COLOMBIA / 29 NOV 2011

Venezuela captured one of Colombia's top drug traffickers just hours before President Juan Manuel Santos was set to visit Caracas;…

COLOMBIA / 18 JUL 2017

A new report says deforestation in Colombia increased considerably in 2016, with over a third of deforestation occurring in…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

Guatemala Social Insecurity Investigation Makes Front Page News

10 DEC 2021

InSight Crime’s latest investigation into a case of corruption within Guatemala's social security agency linked to the deaths of patients with kidney disease made waves in…

THE ORGANIZATION

Venezuela El Dorado Investigation Makes Headlines

3 DEC 2021

InSight Crime's investigation into the trafficking of illegal gold in Venezuela's Amazon region generated impact on both social media and in the press. Besides being republished and mentioned by several…

THE ORGANIZATION

Gender and Investigative Techniques Focus of Workshops

26 NOV 2021

On November 23-24, InSight Crime conducted a workshop called “How to Cover Organized Crime: Investigation Techniques and A Focus on Gender.” The session convened reporters and investigators from a dozen…

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime Names Two New Board Members

19 NOV 2021

In recent weeks, InSight Crime added two new members to its board. Joy Olson is the former executive director of the Washington Office on Latin America…

THE ORGANIZATION

Senate Commission in Paraguay Cites InSight Crime

12 NOV 2021

InSight Crime’s reporting and investigations often reach the desks of diplomats, security officials and politicians. The latest example occurred in late October during a commission of Paraguay's Senate that tackled…