Defensoría cites torture claims of maximum security inmates

The Defensoría de los Habitantes has characterized the nation’s prisons as a system in crisis due to overcrowding, poor infrastructure and other woes.

The governmental ombudsman agency also said it received reports of torture, beatings and other serious human rights violations from prisoners in the maximum security section where an escape attempt took place May 11. Prisoners said they faced death threats and feared for their life even before the jail break attempt that resulted in the death of a guard and two would-be fugitives.

The Defensoría called upon prison officials to change the guards at the maximum security wing either temporarily or permanently until the complaints could be resolved.

One of the would-be jail breakers died Sunday in the maximum security wing. He is Jovel Guillermo Araya Ramírez, who also led a 2006 breakout that resulted in the death of a guard.
An autopsy is being done, and the initial cause is reported to be an aneurysm, but prisoners said they feared being poisoned.

The Defensoría said that its investigators believe they have uncovered elements that suggest torture, it said in a release.
Interviews with two prisoners resulted in the claims that some were taken from their cells, threatened and subjected to physical and psychological abuse. Guards also put ants in their underwear, they said. In another case, a prisoner said that water and coffee were dumped on his face all night. Another said guards destroyed his personal items in his cell, such as a television, a radio, clothing, personal hygiene products and a pillow.

Although prisoners have been known to exaggerate to gain better treatment, these individuals were hospitalized and treated for injuries, the report said.

As far as the prison system, the Defensoría said there were more than 10,500 prisoners, and that the job slots for guards were not keeping up with the growth in inmates.

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