HomeNewsBriefNicaragua Releases 8,000 Inmates from Overcrowded Prisons
BRIEF

Nicaragua Releases 8,000 Inmates from Overcrowded Prisons

NICARAGUA / 23 FEB 2016 BY JAMES BARGENT EN

Nicaragua has reportedly released the equivalent of 80 percent of its prison population over the last two years in a controversial measure to ease overcrowding that suffers from a lack of transparency.

On February 22, Nicaraguan government officials announced that 8,149 prisoners had received a conditional release since 2014, 845 of them so far in 2016. As of October 2014, the country’s prison population stood at just over 10,500, according to government figures published by the World Prison Brief.

According to a Nicaraguan government spokesperson, the prisoners had been sentenced for minor crimes and were serving sentences of less than five years, and their releases were part of a “humanitarian policy of reconciliation and unity for Nicaraguan families.”

The terms of release require the convicts to report periodically to the prison where they were housed, have a family member sign as a guarantor for their release and meet certain conditions such as not entering places where there is gambling or consumption of alcohol, reported El Nuevo Diario.

Human rights groups and government opponents criticized the measure for political meddling in the judicial system and for its lack of transparency, especially over the criteria officials used when deciding who receives parole, reported La Prensa.

InSight Crime Analysis

As in much of Central America, Nicaragua’s prisons suffer from severe overcrowding, and it is almost certainly this rather than a desire to reconcile families that is behind the mass release of Nicaraguan prisoners.

Nicaragua’s prison system only has the capacity to hold around 5,000 inmates, and until 2010 the population remained steady at between 6,000 and 7,000, according to the World Prison Brief statistics. However, since then, the population has shot up to over 10,000, leading to appalling conditions in facilities that are crumbling under the strain.

SEE ALSO: Coverage of Prisons

Attempting to ease overcrowding by seeking alternatives to custodial sentences may be a viable option under certain circumstances. Flooding prisons with minor criminals can be hugely counter-productive, destroying families, forcing minor offenders to co-exist with hardened criminals, and pushing prison systems to the point of collapse.

However, such a policy must be carefully and transparently implemented, otherwise there is the risk is of a situation developing such as in Venezuela — where over 13,000 prisoners were released onto the streets with a near complete absence of oversight and control.

In Nicaragua, lack of government transparency makes it difficult to assess whether the release was a carefully considered response to minimize the impact of a genuine crisis, or a badly planned, knee-jerk reaction to that crisis.

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

HONDURAS / 30 MAR 2012

At least 13 inmates have been killed in a riot and subsequent fire in a prison in San Pedro Sula,…

HONDURAS / 6 AUG 2013

In the wake of a prison shootout that left three dead in Honduras, authorities have announced increased security measures to…

PRISONS / 2 AUG 2011

Venezuela's new prison minister has promised to release nearly half of the country’s inmates in an effort to ease overcrowding,…

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…