Prison Conditions in Kenya 
The prison system in Kenya is one of the worst prison systems in the world. Prison conditions are gruesome. Hygiene is very low and violence is very high among inmates. Starvation and a lack of medical care are also very common throughout prisons in Kenya.

Poverty and Prison Conditions

Within the prison system in Kenya, inmates have to endure cruel and horrible conditions. The majority of inmates that are in prison suffering from these gruesome conditions are poor. According to Prison Insider, “A study on death-row convicts found that poor and uneducated Kenyans are languishing in prison for either robbery with violence or murder.” Whether on death row or not, poor Kenyans are living in degrading prison conditions just because they are poor.

Kenyans that are poor end up in prison because the police purposely target them. Police officers in Kenya have a history of abusing their power and harassing poor and marginalized people. Since these individuals are very poor, they cannot bribe police officers to release them and they cannot defend themselves due to a lack of legal knowledge. They also cannot hire an attorney so their only option is to go to jail and live in conditions that are inhumane.

Poor Hygiene

Poor inmates in prison have to “wallow in misery and want.” While on the other hand, inmates with money can have self-contained cells with amenities such as flushable toilets and TVs with satellites. Omar Ismael, who is 64 years old and served nine years at Manyani prison, explained that close to 100 inmates share one bathroom and one toilet. Inmates in prison usually end up catching diseases such as tuberculosis and pneumonia as well as scabies and diarrhea due to how unsanitary things are. Terrible conditions within prisons also consist of overcrowding which is a result of poor infrastructure. Aging buildings and inadequate cells are also part of the problem when it comes to harsh prison conditions.

In western Kakamega prison, inmates have gone five years with no clean running water. Clean water for drinking and showering was not available to inmates. Since inmates didn’t have access to clean water, their poor diets got worse. Water shortages in this prison also led to toilet clogging and overflowing.

Women Facing Poor Prison Conditions

Females that commit crimes often have a background of poverty. Poverty forces women to commit crimes because they have to find a way to support their families. Women in certain countries are often imprisoned for offenses such as prostitution and adultery which are criminalized and called status offenses.

Women that are imprisoned in Kenya often face two of the worst prison conditions which are a lack of sanitation and a lack of proper hygiene products. In May 2020, the Kenya Prisons Service stopped all visits to prisons in order to control the spread of COVID-19. In Korinda Prison, the suspension of all visits severely impacted more than 100 women because these visits supplied women with the necessary hygiene and sanitation products from family members and organizations. Mary Makokha, who is executive director of Busia-based organization REEP, told NATION “They had no panties, no sanitary towels. Women were walking around with blood running down their legs.”

Improving Hygiene and Sanitation

Despite cruel and inhumane prison conditions plaguing inmates in various prisons across Kenya, some are taking measures to improve and fix conditions. Nestle Kenya and the Rotary International District 9212 collaborated with National Business Compact on COVID-19 to improve hygiene conditions in prisons through Nairobi. This collaboration allowed the Kenya Prisons Service to administer 20,000 liters of water a day along with soap and 18 hand washing stations. The National Business Compact on COVID-19 donated soap and hand washing stations to promote and allow inmates to wash their hands more often.

Unfortunately, prison conditions in Kenya are very grim. Inmates that are poor have to endure a lack of hygiene and sanitation which is not safe at all, especially during a deadly pandemic. Poor inmates should not have to face such grueling prison conditions just because they are poor but if more programs and organizations partner together to supply more water and hygiene products to prisons, living conditions can improve for inmates.

– Yonina Anglin
Photo: Unsplash

Poverty and Imprisonment
While many can acknowledge that criminal justice is inseparable from social justice, there is an underrepresented community at the center of this overlap, in need of support. As an individual loses their liberty through imprisonment, the family members relying on them become more susceptible to financial insecurity and economic burdens. These families face new expenses in relation to visits and contact costs, often with decreased income. The England and Wales prison population saw an increase of four times from 1900 to 2020 from about 17,400 prisoners to around 80,000. Contrastingly, crime rates in England and Wales have decreased by more than half from 1981 to 2021. With poverty and imprisonment so interconnected, one may consider whether imprisonment is pushing more families below the poverty line.

The Families Behind the Data

As the British approach to crime and punishment concentrates on retributive justice, such as imprisonment, working-class families are suffering the consequences. The threat to financial stability is partially attributed to income reduction and families unable to rely on relatives’ earnings following imprisonment. Many family members find themselves leaving employment to take on full childcare responsibilities despite increased financial strain.

Research finds that some individuals who do not have children leave work due to the detrimental impact of the criminal justice system’s procedures on their mental health. Outgoings will also often increase for families, in the form of traveling costs for prison visits and phone calls. According to Action for Prisoners’ Families, in 2006, U.K. prisons charged prisoners a phone call rate “five times higher than the standard payphone rate.”

Further costs stem from financial support to the prisoner to make prison time more bearable, especially considering that almost 40% of young offenders aged 18-21 are in their cells for more than 22 hours a day, often in unsanitary conditions.

Impact on Women

Research shows that female family members primarily suffer the strain of poverty and imprisonment, regardless of the gender of their incarcerated loved ones. These women sacrifice both money and time to ensure the well-being of their relatives in prison.

Simultaneously, female caregivers tend to take on childcare responsibilities that are usually abundant, morally expected and heavily gendered, but with a significant lack of support and available resources. Furthermore, female relatives face an increased likelihood of negative stigma and tarnished identity. Many women are even condemned for the crimes of their imprisoned family members.

Impact on Children

Financial and emotional strain for families with an incarcerated co-parent can be even higher than when children experience separation from this parent due to loss or divorce. This links to a tendency for parental mental health to deteriorate in these circumstances, which can lead to lower-quality parenting, a lack of support and neglect.

Studies continuously show a strong association between family dysfunction and legal misconduct tendencies. As financial strain heightens and living conditions become more difficult, a cycle of crime may develop. Crime can also become generational, with children being more likely to offend when their parent has a criminal record. This pattern is intensified by frequent parental reoffending.

The Discrimination That Ethnic Minorities are Facing

The disproportionate impact of poverty on those from ethnic minority backgrounds exacerbates inequality in the U.K. Those who are white British are less likely to live below the poverty line than other ethnic groups. According to a study, in 2018, “50% of all Bangladeshis and 46% of all Pakistanis [fell into] the most deprived fifth of the population.”

The impact of imprisonment can intensify this vulnerability due to the multifaceted financial strain placed on families with incarcerated individuals. According to the Institute of Race Relations, law enforcement authorities are more inclined to subject racial minority groups to search and arrest procedures due to the discrimination and stereotypes entrenched in societies. Furthermore, law enforcement authorities are more likely to arrest racial minority groups for drug-related offenses in comparison to white people. These patterns, particularly over-policing and over-imprisonment, are due to institutional racism.

Moving Forward

In 2017, the U.K. Ministry of Justice vowed to raise the standard of prisons and support the relationships between prisoners and their families while redistributing “funding for delivery of family services” in an even and appropriate manner. This involves prison reforms adopting a holistic focus that will help to prevent reoffending alongside wealth inequality.

Pact (Prison Advice and Care Trust) is a U.K.-based charity committed to helping prisoners and their families. In 1898, two Catholic legal professionals initially established the organization as the Catholic Prisoners Aid Society. Renamed Pact in 2001, the organization has helped more than 100,000 families maintain contact with relatives in prison over the last year. Pact also gave “relationship and parenting education” to 661 incarcerated individuals and their families, among other initiatives. Through the befriending project, trained volunteers knowledgeable about the imprisonment process and experience provide support to individuals with imprisoned relatives.

Efforts like these address the links between poverty and imprisonment, enabling prisoners and their families to access the resources for a better future.

– Lydia Tyler
Photo: Unsplash

Justice Defenders
All over the world, people end up in prison in an act defined as “justice.” Over 10 million people represent the worldwide prison population. According to the NIC, its rates are highest in countries such as Seychelles, the United States, St. Kitts and Nevis, Turkmenistan and the U.S. Virgin Islands. All of these countries have class-based systems that produce poverty and subsequently an overrepresentation of their poor populations in prison. Prisons are such a normalized part of most of the world’s justice systems that many do not even question whether the institution is just or not. The African nonprofit Justice Defenders is fighting the very institution that people know as the “Prison Industrial Complex.”

Poverty and Prisons

Prison systems all over the world disproportionately target poor people and incarcerate them in horrendous conditions. In the prisons of Africa, which many consider the worst in the world, The International Journal on Human Rights has reported that “prisoners often lack space to sleep or sit, hygiene is poor, and food and clothing are inadequate.” This human rights violation is an injustice in a system supposedly designed to implement justice.

Additionally, the journal highlighted how all people, but specifically women, incarcerated in African prisons are “overwhelmingly poor and uneducated” and thus “sexism is apparent in the criminalization and sentencing of certain conducts.” This targeting and sentencing of all people, but disproportionately women, is again unjust to poor communities. The journal importantly noted how the poor often suffer detainment longer because they cannot pay for an early release. In other words, detained wealthy people often pay their way out of the system. This is a luxury that poor people do not have, therefore causing a higher representation in prison systems not only across Africa but across the world.

Defending Justice

There are, and have been, many efforts to combat the injustices of the Prison Industrial Complex globally. However, one nonprofit based in Uganda is providing education through the system in order to fight it. Justice Defenders, headquartered in Kampala, Uganda, includes a varied membership of all kinds of people related to the justice system, from judges and allies to prisoners and ex-convicts. According to Justice Defenders’ website, it strives to use education as a means to tackle the injustices of the system. Since poor people lacking education represent a larger population in prisons, providing imprisoned people with adequate education is imperative.

Justice Defenders creates social and faith groups for imprisoned people in addition to providing legal protection and representation in trials. While working against the injustices of Africa’s Prison Industrial Complex, Justice Defenders also strengthens this community by partnering globally. It is a registered charity in the United Kingdom and addresses mass incarceration in the United States. By creating a strong global movement, Justice Defenders attacks injustice at every level of the prison system and fights for a world free of poverty.

Hope for the Hopeless

Poor people disproportionately represent prison populations across the world, and Justice Defenders is working to right this injustice. One of the most profound statements that the nonprofit has shared is a quote from American lawyer Bryan Stevenson, who argued that “the opposite of poverty is not wealth. In too many places, the opposite of poverty is justice.” Luckily, groups like this nonprofit are on the front lines, fighting for justice.

– Sebastian Fell
Photo: Flickr

The Connection Between Prison and Poverty
In many societies around the world, mass incarceration is rampant and disproportionately affects those living in poverty. In 2013, reports determined that more than 10 million impoverished people have undergone incarceration. This has led to a dampening of upward social mobility because even after prison convicts face the stigma of being a former felon, individuals who believed that their best option to rise from poverty was a life of crime will likely return to a community where their best survival option is criminal. A connection between prison and poverty emerges in developing countries where cyclical policies keep people at the bottom of the social hierarchy with no way out.

The Connection Between Prison and Poverty

Former U.N. Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights Philip Alston studied this prison-poverty connection. In 2018, he released his findings in a report that documented how overly harsh government policy can have a pronounced effect on impoverished offenders. Alston notes, “so-called fines and fees are piled up so that low-level infractions become immensely burdensome, a process that affects only the poorest members of society, who pay the vast majority of such penalties.” If someone fails to pay their debts, the government will often place restrictions on their driver’s license, making recidivism far more likely.

Pre-Trial Detention in Brazil

Brazil ranks as the country with the third-highest rate of incarceration, behind China and the U.S. Its prison population rises above 755,000. Like the United States, the developing country engages in pre-trial detention. Pretrial detention is the act of holding a person suspected of a crime without rights until a court date. However, poor people often stay in detention facilities longer than the wealthy. This is because they cannot afford the exorbitant cash bail that the wealthy can. A 2010 study found that hundreds stayed in jail several years past their planned release. Additionally, “irregularities” lead to the mistaken detainment of over 16,000 Brazilians. Pretrial detention inmates currently overcrowd Brazil’s prisons, which make up nearly a third of the inmate population.

The War on Drugs in Thailand

With the number of people incarcerated at 344,161, Thailand ranks as number six in the world when it comes to mass incarceration. Similar to Brazil, the country has its own struggles with prison and poverty. An unexpected explanation for Thailand’s overcrowded prisons is the American War on Drugs. In 1997, a financial crash forced many Thai people into unemployment. This economic despair led to an increase in the number of drug users. In 2003, the government chose to heavily police these now-impoverished citizens. While Thailand has backed away from violent crackdowns, the majority of arrests are still primarily drug offenses. To evade time in prison, wealthier people can pay the $1,300 in drug charges. In 2016, only 27% of first-time offenders managed to avoid recidivism, as those in poverty could not afford bail.

Penal Reform International

While the connection between prison and poverty seems deep-rooted, it is still capable of transformation. Organizations have worked to alleviate the flaws of prison systems throughout the globe through educational, political and relief efforts to break the cycle. Penal Reform International is one such group.

Founded in 1989 with a focus on rehabilitation, Penal Reform International (PRI) works with the United Nations and other organizations to advocate for fair treatment of people in the criminal justice system. PRI observes detention centers and offers solutions to systemic abuse. For example, PRI studied the lives of the female offender population in the country of Georgia. The report found that they detained over a third for non-violent drug offenses. About 40% of those questioned committed crimes for financial reasons, while 80% were also mothers. Among those who received a release from prison, more than half had trouble finding employment due to their record, while most never obtained any kind of rehabilitative assistance. Between 2016 and 2019, PRI created a project providing services to Georgian women prisoners. Services included legal aid, counseling, business grants and healthcare assistance. Respondents expressed that the project has greatly improved their mental wellbeing, preparedness and self-esteem.

Prison and poverty can intertwine when the prison system values money over people. Nevertheless, learning about these issues surrounding developing countries can shed light on the flaws in one’s own.

– Zachary Sherry
Photo: Flickr

Norway’s Prison System
Norway has consistently ranked number one on a number of lists entailing the best, most comfortable prisons in the world. Since the 1990s, Norway’s prison system has evolved into spaces that represent comfort, healing and inclusivity. Changing its approach and attitudes towards prisoners, Norway is molding high-functioning members of society. In return, former prisoners are gaining the necessary skills in order to contribute to Norway’s economy. Here is some information about Norway’s prison system.

Norway’s Prison System

As of 2014, Norway’s incarceration rate was at only 75 per 100,000 people. In addition, since developing its new prison system in the 1990s, its recidivism rate has decreased from around 60-70% to only 20% in recent years. The main reason for these statistics is due to a focus on “restorative justice,” an approach that identifies prisons in the same category as rehabilitation facilities. Rather than focusing on the punishment and mistreatment of its prisoners, Norway has the primary goal of reintegrating its prisoners as stable contributors to communities. The first way it is accomplishing this is by creating jail cells that closely resemble small, dorm rooms. Many prisons in Norway have completely banned bars in their architectural design and have “open” style cells. At the maximum-security Halden prison, each prisoner has a toilet, shower, fridge and a flat TV screen with access to kitchens and common areas.

Along with its innovative architectural style, Norway’s prison system ensures that it provides a multitude of programs and courses that one could find at traditional recreational centers. The Halden maximum facility allows its prisoners to enroll in yoga classes and at other places, inmates can choose to learn woodworking or even have access to studios. These programs ensure jails create a peaceful atmosphere, rather than a place for hatred and violence. Furthermore, Norwegian jails highlight the importance of education. Its primary goal is to encourage prisoners to not simply survive, but to live a full life once their sentence time reaches completion.

The Elimination of Life Sentences

Norway has banned life sentences, and one inmate at the Halden facility is serving 15 years for committing murder. In a 2019 interview, Fredrik opened up about his time at the prison and his accomplishments since starting his sentence. He is currently publishing a prison cookbook, received a diploma in graphic design, aced multiple exams, currently studying physics and hopes to pursue higher education once his sentence reaches completion.

At another facility, prisoners spoke of the impact educational programs had on their mental health and hopes for the future. They admitted they had felt a sense of hopelessness because they believed the only real skill they held was selling drugs. However, after taking several courses, they felt accomplished and realized they could master different, proactive skills. Now, through their time in prison, they gained valuable life skills that can assist them in gaining legal jobs that will ensure they do not land back in prison.

The Benefits of Norway’s Prison System

In a research paper published in 2019, the authors focused specifically on the impact of prisoners on the economy. The paper highlighted Norwegian ideologies and the results of their unique prison system. First, reducing the population of prisoners that are reincarcerated means more individuals are able to contribute to Norway’s economy once their sentence is complete. Second, among the prison population that was unemployed prior to being arrested, there was a 34% increase in this group partaking in job training courses and a 40% increase in employment rates. Lastly, Norway’s prison system equips its prisoners with education-based knowledge and labor skills that have long-term benefits to its country’s economy and also improves their personal lives.

With all these positive outcomes, Norway’s prison system may well become the leader for other countries across the globe to follow. One mission that is consistent throughout all of Norway’s facilities is the rehabilitation and reintegration of its prisoners into society. These prisons’ accepting, caring and empathetic approach has paved the way for many prisoners into becoming fine citizens supporting their country’s economy.

– Bolorzul Dorjsuren
Photo: Flickr

Covid-19 crisis in prisons
There are currently an estimated 11 million people either incarcerated or in custody, around the world. In prisons and jails, overcrowding and inadequate sanitation during the Covid-19 crisis have exacerbated these preexisting problems. Professional health physicians and Human Rights Watch advocates explain that “prisoners share toilets, bathrooms, sinks and dining halls”. Also, sometimes prisoners lack access to running water. These inadequacies reflect the (at times) — dismal quality of life that incarcerated people experience, globally.

Overcrowding Effects

Overcrowding and unclean living conditions during the Covid-19 pandemic have exacerbated the immense violations of human rights in prisons and jails. Haiti, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Philippines’ prisons are currently at 450%, 432% and 537% capacity, respectively. Overcrowding allows Covid-19 to spread much more easily through prisons. Furthermore, it makes single rooms unavailable for both sick and healthy inmates. With the current state of affairs, physical distancing is simply not an option. The United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners expects incarcerated people infected with Covid-19 to receive medical attention in line with the WHO guidelines. Overcrowding hinders the fair treatment of incarcerated people — especially considering that prisoners are not typically afforded sufficient care from doctors during pre-pandemic times (let alone amid a pandemic).

Prisoners and Human Rights

Prisoners deserve basic human rights, access to healthcare and safe public health. UNAIDS, the WHO and the UNHCR are all calling for a mass release of prisoners — from a public safety standpoint. The release of incarcerated people who qualify as high-risk for Covid-19 (e.g., the elderly, mothers with children or who are breastfeeding, pregnant women and non-violent offenders) reduces health risks. These risks would otherwise remain unaddressed within prisons and jails (given their resources). Winnie Byanyima, Executive Director of UNAIDS calls it [the Covid-19 crisis] an “unprecedented global emergency” and recognizes the dire need to defend the human rights of incarcerated people, worldwide.

Solitary Confinement during Covid-19

Solitary confinement is typically a severe punishment for inmates. However, the U.S. has mandated the practice for infected inmates in response to the Covid-19 crisis in prisons. Before the Covid-19, 60,000 inmates were in solitary confinement in federal prisons — whereas now there are 300,000. This practice has proven to be a disincentive for inmates to come forward as sick, even if they are knowingly infected with Covid-19.

Practical Solutions to the Problem

More practical and effective solutions to the Covid-19 crisis in prisons and jails include thorough testing and screening for the virus, to stay ahead of the spread. Another solution — comprehensive safety practices of employees who travel in and out of the facilities, daily. Still, there is too much overcrowding and simultaneously, too many at-risk populations in prisons and jails. These facilities cannot properly preserve the human rights and well-being of inmates during the current pandemic. Non-violent offenders, pregnant and/or breastfeeding women, people who are detained because they cannot afford bail, elderly people and those with misdemeanors are all examples of groups that could be safely released.

An Expert Outlook

UNAIDS, the U.N., the Prison Policy Initiative, the WHO and numerous other organizations tracking the health and safety of incarcerated people insist that the true solution to the Covid-19 crisis in prisons is to eliminate overcrowding. Therefore, the solution to overcrowding in prisons may well be to release large amounts of qualifying incarcerated people. This may hold true in particular, amid a global pandemic.

Nye Day
Photo: Pixbay

Police Reform in India
In January 2020, protests over a citizenship law targeting Muslims ravaged India’s streets. The Citizenship Amendment Act uses religion as a gateway to citizenship in India for illegal immigrants. However, not all religions are created equal in the eyes of the Indian Parliament: the bill favors South Asia’s major religions except for Islam, even though Muslims comprise 14.2% of India’s population. The bill created outrage throughout India’s Muslim population, leading the nation’s police to detain protesters and rioters in often forceful ways. Regulations and NGO movements are emerging to help decrease cruelty in India’s police system. Here are three actions advancing police reform in India.

Media Outlets

When the Citizenship Amendment Act protests and riots occurred, media outlets extensively covered these events. Their coverage helped to expose the bill’s injustices as well as police abuse. In an interview with the BBC, one family had a platform to share their son’s tragic story: “My son started running when he saw protests turning violent. He was shot in the stomach by police,” Muhammed Shareef stated. Shareef’s son, Raees, died three days later. The police denied the allegations. If the media had not illuminated Shareef’s story, fewer people would understand the severity of police violence in India. If this extensive media coverage continues, stronger advocacy and international awareness could be achieved.

The Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative

NGOs have also become powerful in encouraging police reform in India. These groups hold significant influence in supporting policy implementation. For example, in 2016, the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative focused its efforts on improving the relationship between citizens and police in India. NGO initiatives like these are proving effective: since 2016, the violent crime rate with police in India has dropped by 5.88%.

Indian Police Foundation

The IPF’s goal is to act as a primary force in improving the humanity of India’s police system. The organization researches constructive management tools, effective methods of combating police brutality and procedures for hiring responsible police officers.

The Future of Police in India

With robust initiatives like those that media outlets, NGOs and the IPF implement, police reform in India is on the horizon. Despite this progress, there remains a clear need for improvement: a study that the National Campaign Against Torture performed found that 1,731 people died in police custody in 2019, averaging to five deaths per day. Although the extent of their impact is still developing, NGOs are becoming a powerful voice for change. With these three groups advancing police reform in India, there is hope for saving lives and creating constructive police reform.

– Grant Ritchey
Photo: Flickr

 

Philippines Incarceration System
In 2018, the Philippines held the sixth-highest prison population out of 21 Asian countries. As of 2019, the Philippines’ population rested at 108.31 million people, and 215,000 of those people were incarcerated. Therefore, the Philippines has an incarceration rate of about 200 per 100,000 citizens. There are 933 prisons running in the Philippines. Unfortunately, they are mismanaged and overcrowded. Below are five important facts about the incarceration system in the Philippines.

5 Facts About the Philippines’ Incarceration System

  1. Severe overcrowding – Rodrigo Duterte won the presidential election in 2016. He promised to end crime within six months. This promise also included the killing of 10s of thousands of criminals. Duterte’s election led to the infamous war on drugs and eventually, overcrowded prisons. Manila City Jail, the largest jail in the Philippines, is split into dorms that safely house 170 inmates. Currently, these dorms house around 500 people. Similarly, a room designated for 30 people holds about 130 in the Quezon City Jail. This severe overcrowding in prisons leads to illness and death tolls in the thousands.
  2. Pre-trial detainees – According to The World Prison Brief, 75.1% of incarcerations within the Philippines’ incarceration system are pre-trial. In 2018, 141,422 of 188,278 prisoners were pre-trial detainees. Unfortunately, many people are serving sentences without conviction. Pre-trial detention is found in judicial systems all over the world. In countries like the Philippines, people may serve time that outweighs their crimes. On average, prisoners in the Philippines are detained for nine months without being sentenced.
  3. High death tolls – About 5,200 inmates die annually at the New Bilibid Prison (NBP). According to Ernesto Tamayo, the hospital medical chief, these deaths are due to overcrowding, dirty living conditions and inmate violence. At a 2019 Philippines Senate hearing, Tamayo said that there were “uncontrollable outbreaks of pulmonary tuberculosis.” In addition to overcrowding, poor living conditions and inmate violence, NBP lacks nutritional food and basic healthcare. On account of these living conditions, Tamayo reports that at least one prisoner dies at NBP each day. Thankfully, politicians and prison employees are working to reduce overcrowding in the Philippines’ prisons. Human rights advocates have also called for the release of vulnerable inmates, hoping to protect them from poor living conditions.
  4. Vigilante justice – Duterte’s war on drugs escalated during his presidency. Jobless citizens were recruited to kill anyone suspected of dealing, buying or using drugs. This was one of few ways for some people to make money; many homeless and impoverished people joined the vigilante teams. In 2016, Duterte told the public, “If you know of any addicts, go ahead and kill them yourself.” Together, the Philippines’ police force and unidentified gunmen have killed 7,000 known drug dealers and users since Duterte’s presidency in 2016. The Philippines’ war on drugs has created the belief that extrajudicial violence and murder are necessary to fight crime. But, the Human Rights Watch has turned the narrative around on Duterte; they are publicizing information about the vigilante justice in the Philippines.
  5. Corruption – In August 2018, the public learned a former mayor may have been released from prison for good behavior. He was originally charged for rape and homicide in 1993. Similar stories of corruption in the Philippines’ prisons continued to emerge. In September 2018, the public learned that a woman was told her husband’s sentence would be shortened if she paid 50,000 pesos ($970). Later that year, senators stated that inmates could “live like kings” for a fee. This information led to further allegations: prison workers and officials were taking bribes to bring and distribute contraband to inmates. The contraband in question included cigarettes, cellphones and televisions. Supposedly, inmates can also pay for personal cooks and nurses. Inmates who cannot afford a better life within the prison are stuck in overcrowded and dirty rooms; these inmates have a higher rate of becoming ill and of death. Now that the corruption has been unearthed, officials are taking steps to weed it out, one prison at a time.

Possible Fix

With increased awareness of the Philippines’ prison system, there is hope that conditions will be improved and vigilante justice will end. It will take time to fix the Philippines’ judicial and incarceration systems. However, with the help of advocacy groups like the Human Rights Watch, a change could come sooner than expected.

Marlee Ingram
Photo: Flickr

mass incarcerations in Colombia
Colombia is a country in South America with a population of nearly 50 million as of 2018. It is the second largest country located in South America, with the 38th largest economy in the world. The Colombian Justice System is structured similarly to that of the United States, where defendants have the right to a fair and speedy trial and are sentenced by judges.

Colombian prisons have a problem with mass incarceration. They have an overall capacity of 80,928 people; however, their actual capacity is at 112,864 people as of May 2020. The majority of people are incarcerated for non-violent crimes, such as drug-related offenses. Mass incarcerations in Colombia are also an issue because they lead to other health issues, such as the transmission of HIV and tuberculosis. Here are four more important things to know about mass incarcerations in Colombia.

Mass Incarcerations in Colombia: 4 Things to Know

  1. Capacity Rates: There are 132 prisons in Colombia with a total maximum capacity of just over 80,000 people. Despite this capacity, Colombian prisons have an occupancy level of 139.5%, or just over 112,000 people. Women make up approximately 6.9% of this number, or about 7,700 women. There are no children actively incarcerated in Colombian prisons. The country’s congress has regularly fought against the release of prisoners, instead choosing to keep the prisons full.
  2. Effects of COVID-19: Prison riots are becoming increasingly common in Latin America with the spread of the coronavirus. Mass incarcerations in Colombia have created panic amongst the prisoners, who have demanded more attention to their conditions. The Colombian Minister of Justice, Margarita Cabello, has not outwardly acknowledged the prison riots as demands for better care against COVID-19. Instead, she has stated that the riots were an attempt to thwart security and escape from prison. Furthermore, because of the scarcity in the number of doctors, many prisoners have contracted and/or died from COVID-19. In one particular prison in central Colombia, over 30% of staffers and prisoners have become infected with the virus.
  3. Infectious Diseases: Beside COVID-19, mass incarcerations in Colombia have allowed for the spread of other infectious diseases, such as HIV and tuberculosis. Colombian prisons have designated cell blocks for those who contract HIV, as it is common for prisoners to engage in sexual relationships with guards. Healthcare facilities are not readily available in prisons, and condoms are in scarce supply. Active cases of tuberculosis (TB) also correlate with mass incarcerations in Colombia. Approximately 1,000 prisoners per 100,000 were found to have active cases of TB with little to no access to affordable care.
  4. Possible Solutions: Local citizens Mario Salazar and Tatiana Arango created the Salazar Arango Foundation for Colombian prisoners. Salazar conceived the idea after being imprisoned in 2012 on fraud charges and seeking ways to make serving his sentence more tolerable. The Salazar and Arango Foundation provides workshops for prisoners in the city of La Picota and puts on plays for fellow inmates. Prisoners have found the organization to be impactful to their self-esteem and their push for lower sentences.

Mass incarcerations have had major impacts on the Colombian prison system. Issues such as food shortages and violence have given way to poverty-like conditions with little action. Despite these conditions, organizations such as the Salazar Arango Foundation look to make mass incarcerations in Colombia more tolerable for those behind bars. Hopefully, with time, mass incarcerations in Colombia can eventually be eliminated.

– Alondra Belford
Photo: Unsplash

Mass Incarcerations in ColombiaThere is currently a problem of mass incarceration in Colombia. This South American country has a population of nearly 50 million people as of 2018. Currently, Colombian prisons have a capacity of 80,928 people. However, as of May 2020 the incarcerated population reached 112,864, or 139.5% of capacity. The Colombian prison system is known to be very overcrowded. Overcrowded prisons infer and amplify broader social issues. These prison environments amplify the spread of infectious diseases like HIV, tuberculosis and, most recently, COVID-19.

Effects of Mass Incarceration in Colombia on Health

  1. Capacity Rates: There are 132 prisons in Colombia with a total maximum capacity of just over 80,000 people. Despite this capacity, Colombian prisons have reached 139.5% of occupancy, or just over 112,000 people. Women make up about 6.9% of this number—about 7,700 women. Currently, there are no incarcerated in Colombia. Congress has actively fought against the release of prisoners, instead choosing to keep the prisons full.
  2. Effects of COVID-19: Prison riots are becoming increasingly common in Latin America with the spread of the COVID-19 virus. Mass incarceration in Colombia has created panic amongst prisoners, who have demanded more attention to their conditions. The Colombian Minister of Justice, Margarita Cabello, has not outwardly acknowledged the prison riots as demands for better care against COVID-19. Rather, Minister Cabello stated that the riots were an attempt to thwart security and escape from prison. Furthermore, due to the scarcity of doctors, prisoners continue to contract and/or die from complications of COVID-19.
  3. Infectious Diseases: Besides COVID-19, mass incarceration in Colombia has allowed the spread of diseases such as HIV and tuberculosis. Many Colombian prisons have a designated cell block for those who contract HIV, as it is common for prisoners to engage in sexual relationships with guards. Healthcare facilities are not readily available in prisons and condoms are in scarce supply. Active cases of tuberculosis also correlate with mass incarceration in Colombia. Approximately 1,000 per 100,000 prisoners have been diagnosed with tuberculosis. Unfortunately, mass incarceration has further limited prisoners’ access to affordable care.

Striving for Improved Conditions

Local citizens Mario Salazar and Tatiana Arango created the Salazar Arango Foundation for Colombian prisoners. After being imprisoned on fraud charges in 2012, Mario Salazar’s experience drove him to find ways to make prison sentences more tolerable. Salazar and Arango Foundation provides workshops for prisoners in the city of La Picota and puts on plays for fellow inmates. Prisoners have found the organization to be impactful to their self-esteem and their push for lower sentences.

Mass incarceration in the Colombian prison system is both a result and driver of poverty. Issues of food shortages and violence have created poverty-stricken conditions within prisons. Despite these conditions, organizations such as the Salazar Arango Foundation seek to improve the lives of prisoners. Hopefully, with time, external forces will help to reduce the rate of incarceration in Colombia. In essence, efforts to due so would have considerable impact on the lives of prisoners and their families.

– Alondra Belford
Photo: Flickr