A lucrative covert delivery business run by prison guards in Colombia has provided yet another example of the diverse range of services inmates can enjoy behind bars.
Seven guards of the National Penitentiary and Prison Institute (Instituto Nacional Penitenciario y Carcelario – INPEC) were charged with allegedly running a clandestine delivery service within the Tramacúa Prison in the northeastern Valledupar department, prosecutors announced.
The INPEC guards were said to have acquired a drone to deliver drugs, cellphones, electronics, alcohol and food to inmates at the maximum and medium-security prison.
The contraband goods came at a hefty mark-up. A hamburger delivery reportedly cost around $64 and an order of fried rice set prisoners back an eye-watering $100; alcohol around $255; a delivery of marijuana cost around $385; and sim cards went for $515.
According to the Attorney General’s Office, the prison deliveries generated an income of just under $9,000 per month, which was divided among the seven guards.
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The operation was reportedly discovered following a mistaken delivery, in which the drone laden with 18 cellphones landed where it was not supposed to. The INPEC guards are now behind bars themselves.
InSight Crime Analysis
The use of drones to smuggle contraband into prisons has become commonplace across Latin America and around the world.
Cases have been reported across Latin America and internationally. In addition to Colombia, cases have been reported in Ecuador, Chile and Puerto Rico, as well as in the United States and Canada.
The use of drones by prison guards to deliver contraband sets a rarer precedent. However, INPEC, Colombia’s national prison system, has faced numerous corruption scandals in recent years. Officials have been known to charge inmates for perks, accept bribes and extort inmates.
SEE ALSO: Systemic Colombia Prison Corruption Reaches Top Officials
Poorly paid prison guards, who make on average $208 to $625 per month, are easy targets for inmates looking to smuggle contraband into the prison and to flaunt prison rules.
In an interview with El Tiempo in 2019, Elkin Cárdenas, an INPEC employee for more than 20 years, rattled off a list of contributing factors, including a poor selection process, the young age and inexperience of recruits who can be hired at 18 years old, and long work hours. Up until 2021, prison guards could be on shift for up to 24 hours straight, but a decree passed last April limited shifts to 12 hours and a total of 44 hours a week.