Mérida, 27th January 2012 (Venezuelanalysis.com) – Reforms to humanise Venezuela’s prison system moved ahead this week with the launch of a program in which inmates work to restore and improve prison facilities, while prison affairs minister Iris Valera reported progress in tackling delays in the judicial processing of prisoners.
In the Operation Cambote program inmates will decide which areas of their penitentiary facility most need improvement. Engineers and prison ministry officials will coordinate works undertaken, with regional prison directors responsible for the projects. The initiative will be rolled out in each of the country’s 34 prisons.
Valera, who was appointed to head the newly-created Ministry of Penitentiary Services in July 2011, emphasised that the program aims to improve prison conditions. “It will be a way to reduce idleness, as the labour will come from inmates, who will be properly remunerated with the respective benefits under the law,” she added.
Last week the minister also reported that within the framework of Operation Cayapa 40% of prisoners have now had their judicial cases processed, with 60% still waiting to have their cases reviewed. The Cayapa program brings together state judicial institutions including the State Prosecutor of the Republic and the Supreme Court in an effort to tackle hold-ups in the penal process, one of the main problems affecting prisoners in Venezuela.
Valera confirmed on Thursday this week that at the initiative’s current progress, which includes visits to prisons to personally deal with cases, the penal processing system will have been put in order by the end of the year.
The creation of the Ministry of Penitentiary Services is part of the Venezuelan government’s policy to humanise Venezuela’s overcrowded prisons. According to AVN new agency, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez declared recently the need to create “open centres where prisoners live decently,” while commenting that “they are still overcrowded spaces run by mafias”.
Initiatives spearheaded by the prisons ministry also include undertaking a national census of Venezuela’s more than 40,000 prisoners, holding assemblies with inmates to identify their needs, and efforts to disarm those incarcerated.