Friday, 27 September 2013

Chile decides to close "luxury" jail

Chilean president Sebastian Piñera has announced that the country's Cordillera prison, which holds just ten inmates convicted of human rights abuses, will be closed and the prisoners transferred to Punta Pueco jail. 

The decision, as The Pan-American Post points out, appears to have been provoked by an interview former DINA head Manuel Contreras gave to CNN Chile in which - besides coming across as an arrogant and completely unrepentant old man - he apparently mocks the conditions in which he is held. The prisoners reportedly enjoy special privileges (including use of a tennis court?!) and have over 30 guards for the ten detainees: hardly standard Latin American incarceration. 

Punta Pueco is also a jail specifically for holding human rights abusers, but is supposedly somewhat less luxurious than Cordillera. 

Most of the South American countries seem to have this issue to some extent - in Argentina, older prisoners supposedly under "house arrest" appeared able to come and go in the neighbourhood; in Peru, former president Fujimori has basically an entire appartment to himself and receives visitors whenever he wants. It seems to be a standard move of the military/former leaders: if history turns against you and insists on condeming you for your crimes, well, at least try and make the conditions as cushy as possible and live out your old age in peace. 

This two-tier system is completely unnecessary and allows the perpetrators to continue mocking justice. Many (all?!) South American jails need to have their conditions improved for all prisoners and all prisoners should receive necessary medical care, and apart from that there should be no special treatment. We're not there yet, but closing down a ridiculously lax prison for a tiny number of high-profile prisoners is at least a start. I wonder if Contreras regrets giving that interview now?

Piñera cierra el Penal Cordillera y pone broche de oro a su agenda personal por los 40 años del golpe (El Mostrador)
Piñera anuncia cierre definitivo del penal Cordillera y traslado de los condenados a Punta Peuco (La Tercera)
Chile to Move Ex-Pinochet Agents to No-Frills Jail (NY Times)

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