1600 San Pedro Prison Inmates on Hunger Strike in Bolivia
At 6:00 yesterday the 1600 inmates of San Pedro Prison in La Paz, Bolivia began a hunger strike to demand solutions to prison crowding; improvements to health services, food and infrastructure; and that action be taken regarding cases that have been delayed in the courts.
Early in the morning signs hung on the prison security fence showed the protest, which had been announced last week, had begun. The inmates shouted their demands from deep within the prison. None of the prison authorities, who are employees of the Ministerio de Gobierno (Bolivia's Department of the Interior), facilitated access to the prison so inmates could be interviewed.
The prison director, Colonel Roberto Cassas, affirmed that there was no order to allow contact between the media and the prisoners.
However, the prisons contrived to deliver to the media a copy of a letter of understanding they had presented to the Prison Regimen General Director, José Alberto Rodríguez, in which they indicate that their demands, according to them, have not yet been fulfilled.
In the first point, inmates are requesting an increase in their individual ?prediario? (a food bonus they receive) from B. 5.5 per day to Bs. 15 per day. They want the Ministry of Economy to consider the inmate?s food bonus increase in its budget.
They are also demanding problems with the infrastructure be solved to ensure cell walls and ceilings don?t collapse, in addition to a sewage system, urinals, and showers, before the rainy season begins.
They are also demanding the first article of Law 007/10 be modified. This law changed article 239 of the Criminal Procedures Code which establishes that preventive arrests will cease ?when the arrest has exceeded 18 months without an accusation having been dictated, or 36 (months) with no sentence having been dictated.? According to the inmates, this is causing overcrowding in prisons throughout the country.
They are denouncing lack of compliance with Law 2298 (the Penal Enforcement Law), which orders home arrest for people over 60 years of age. They have also revealed that the district attorneys are charging bribes. The inmates demand the San Andrés University School of Law be reopened because it was ?illegally suspended?.
In addition, in a prayer for relief presented on October 4th to prison authorities, the inmates demand nurses be assigned to them, medications be provided, attorneys be designated to the prisons so they can represent inmates when they take the stand. Finally, they are demanding prison security officers receive human rights training.
The president of the Council of Delegates, Dante Escóbar, reported that all 1600 prison inmates are participating in the strike. ?There is no section of our prison that isn?t on strike. They are complying with this measure in the hallways and all over,? he said.
Female inmates at the Obrajes Women?s Prison, who were on a hunger strike, have taken a recess. They are hoping for an increase in their food bonus, a doctor, and improvements to the prison.
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