“Prison Emergency” in Colombia.
(FILE) Photograph dated August 29, 2012 of La Picota prison in Bogota, Colombia. . EFE/MAURICIO DUEÑAS

“Prison Emergency” in Colombia.

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Bogotá, Colombia Feb 12 (EFE). –

The Colombian government declared a “prison emergency” on Monday to combat the persecution of prison guards by criminal gangs and extortion in the country’s overcrowded prisons.

“We have just unanimously approved … the declaration of a prison emergency, which has two purposes: to protect the lives and integrity of prison guards, and to eradicate extortion and corruption from within penitentiaries,” said Justice Minister Néstor Osuna.

The declaration comes after a wave of violence against prison officials in recent weeks.

Osuna explained that the emergency prison decree allows to limit prisoners’ visits and communications, and to carry out transfers and operations in the cells of gang leaders.

He also explained that a budget will be allocated for the purchase and installation of equipment to block cell phone signals to prevent criminal organizations from extorting and planning criminal activities from within the prisons.

The purpose of jamming the signals is to prevent inmates from “easily communicating or establishing contact with prison guards or people in the vicinity of the prison,” Osuna explained.

Meanwhile, raids and surprise searches of prisons will continue, and prisoners suspected of committing crimes will be transferred.

INPEC administers 125 prisons throughout the country with a capacity for 81,740 inmates but currently holds 101,976 prisoners.

This means that the country’s prison population exceeds its capacity by 20,236 inmates, 24.7%, an overcrowding rate, which INPEC classifies as high.

This is the fourth time that a state of prison emergency has been declared in Colombia. The first was in 2013 due to overcrowding, the second in 2016 due to various problems, and the third in 2020 due to the COVID-19 health emergency. EFE

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