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The Dialogue Commission finished its work, made recommendations and left the task of pacifying the prisons to the SNAI.

The Penitentiary Dialogue Commission during its visit to the Litoral Penitentiary, Guayaquil, April 19, 2022.

The work of the Penitentiary Dialogue and Pacification Commission has come to an end. On June 16, the period of functions established in Executive Decree 294 ends and it is dissolved.

But before, the commissioners delivered the diagnosis report and recommendations to the President of the Republic , in a meeting in Carondelet, where the Ministers of the Interior, Patricio Carrillo, and Health, Ximena Garzón, participated.

In addition, the Secretary for Human Rights, Paola Flores, and officials from the National Service for Prisoners of Liberty (SNAI).

This was possible, since for the first time in almost a decade, people outside the governments in power have been able to enter the country’s prisons .

The commissioners were in 12 prisons in the provinces of Guayas, Pichincha, Cotopaxi, Azuay, Manabí, Esmeraldas and Santo Domingo.

The report states that “these places where human beings are confined are not rehabilitation centers, but rather punishment warehouses ” and that is why it is better to call them prisons and not rehabilitation centers.

The Commission started with nine members, but three of them resigned, like Nelsa Curbelo, who chaired the table, and who stepped aside for not sharing the opinions of some commissioners. 

At the time, Curbelo said that it was difficult to reach a pacification in the current conditions .

However, on May 17, Commissioner Claudia Garzón announced an agreement of wills for the dialogue with the detainees , which caused tensions in the Commission, says Luis Barrios, because they were not aware of those negotiations.

“That pacification intention did not come from the Commission, one day Claudia arrived and said that she had been working in secret. She took it out without us having worked on it as a Commission, ”she adds.

He explains that although they welcome a pacification agreement, there must be elements to sit down at the table to negotiate.

The first step is a truce where we are not going to kill each other, we are not going to fight and we are not going to use weapons, and that has not happened yet”, explains Barrios.

The Minister of the Interior, Patricio Carrillo, agreed with him, who said that he does not believe in discursive pacification mechanisms without concrete actions .

In the report, the Commission makes its position clear. “We are not sure how far this agreement can go, but we continue to bet on the sum of the wills of all those involved.” 

And he admits that it was not possible to bring peace to the prisons, but that “at the moment we are dealing with the tranquility of desperate people, which is a time bomb.” 

Those dialogues, according to Alfredo Narváez, who presided over the Commission for the last two months, will continue with Commissioner Garzón and the SNAI .

But they will propose the creation of ” an independent observatory of the government institutions involved in the prison system.”

Because “they cannot be judge and party and must be made up of the academy, institutions, foundations and representatives of the citizenry to monitor what happens in prisons,” explains Narváez.

The causes of violence in prisons

The Commission determined that prison violence has several causes, such as the violence of organizations and their leaders, which dominate pavilions and detention centers, and which produce blackmail by threats against his life. 

But there is also ” the silent and systematic violence on the part of the State , the abandonment of basic care for people deprived of liberty in detention centers,” the report details.

They detected human rights violations, such as overcrowding, lack of access to legal advice and prison benefits, separation from the prison population, access to basic services, wastewater treatment, and even medical care.

“This lack is so serious that we can say that many prisoners have died due to lack of medical care. The lack of care for mental and psychological illnesses is palpable. There is no policy to treat addictions, nor to the elderly”.

The commissioners detected that corruption is attached to the current system in which “persons deprived of liberty, police, SNAI and the penitentiary judicial system are found. A structure has been formed that favors corruption.”

That is to say, “ranging from bribes to enter objects necessary for people deprived of liberty, to arms and drug trafficking.” 

Recommendations

The report is divided into six chapters and together they have almost a hundred observations and recommendations for the institutions involved in the prison system. 

Among the most important are “creating a prison census that goes beyond numbers, who they are, age, why they were sentenced, schooling , physical health condition, what connections they have with the community.”

“This will help to rehabilitate individually,” explains Luis Barrios.

In addition, create the prison training school , for the comprehensive training of staff working in prisons. 

The commissioners recommend that the SNAI decentralize and virtually technify the information of each person deprived of liberty, so that they can have their penitentiary benefits folders.

This would generate fewer displacements of their relatives and would improve the attention to detainees.

They insist on improving public services in the sectors where the detainees come from to promote educational , sports and cultural strengthening activities.

They ask that all State functions place, in a visible and representative part of their main facilities, a plaque in which each of the institutions recognizes that it has failed , by action or omission, the social rehabilitation system.

In addition, in memory of the 123 people who died in the massacre at the Penitenciaría del Litoral on September 28, 2021 , the date is set for the functions of the State to present a report on the actions carried out to contribute to the improvement of the situation of the social rehabilitation system.

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