Peru to Consider Implementing El Salvadorian Prison Model

What You Need to Know:

Peru’s Minister of Justice and Human Rights, Eduardo Arana, visited El Salvador last week to observe the country’s rigid prison system implemented under President Nayib Bukele to combat violent gang crime.

Peru’s current penitentiary system is ill-equipped to deal with a growing prison population, with the National Institute of Health claiming, “prisons in Peru are characterized for being spaces with considerable overcrowding, deteriorated infrastructure and poor healthcare conditions. Consumption of some kind of drugs is frequent amongst inmates, especially those under 18 years of age.”

Furthermore, a crackdown on crime in the country has forced the government to consider updating its penitentiary system. In Pataz and Trujillo provinces, a local state of emergency has been implemented until April 11th due to high crime rates. The right to assembly, transit, and freedom from warrantless searches have also been suspended. 

The Details:

Prime Minister of Peru, Alberto Otárola stated, “[Eduardo was sent by the Government] to see the reality of prison logistics in this country, which has not only become an adequate, modern and efficient infrastructure for all the most violent and most dangerous prisoners to attend. He has also gone to hold joint meetings with the Justice sector of El Salvador about the viability of these prisons that we hope we can implement in Peru.”

Mass incarceration under Nayib Bukele began after El Salvador witnessed a sharp increase in homicides in early 2022. Using Emergency powers 72,000 arrests were made in the following months. Although implemented to loosen the grip that gangs had on the nation, many journalists in the country claimed the emergency powers, particularly the criminalization of ‘relaying gang messages, graffiti, and any form of visual expression relating to gangs’ unintentionally prohibited them from doing their jobs, and put them under threat of arrest. 

Although the crime rate has dropped significantly due to Bukele’s penal reforms, civil rights groups claim the policies have enabled gross human rights abuses. Particularly, one of Bukele’s ‘mega prisons’ do not provide any rehabilitation programs, with Gustavo Villatoro, Bukele’s Justice Minister, stating those sent to the aforementioned mega prison will ‘never return to the community.’ 

So, What Now?:

Arana’s trip signals that Peru is preparing to tackle the nation’s growing crime. However, Peru is still suffering from the economic fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic and likely does not possess the resources to implement such a large penitentiary reform in the coming year.

Bianca Bridger
Bianca Bridger
Bianca Bridger is a Political Science Graduate from the University of Otago, New Zealand. Currently working as an Editor for The ModernInsurgent and writing for Atlas News, her interests include conflict politics, history, yoga and meditation.

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