La Reforma prison sweep yields an amazing assortment

Two officers sweep a cluttered prison cell that bears every resemblance to home. One office is using a metal detector. Photo: Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública

Nearly 1,000 police officers descended on the La Reforma prison in Alajuela Thursday and made an incredible haul of contraband, weapons and cash.

La Reforma in San Rafael de Alajuela contains the maximum security wing that figured in a an abortive and fatal prison break in May. The prison complex contains many other independent unit, and these were what was swept Thursday.

Some 200 Fuerza Pública officers joined 430 members of the Policía Penitenciaria to search the facility.

They were joined by traffic police, judicial agents and even Cruz Roja medical teams in case of emergencies.

Weapons that appear to be small swords were found at the prison. Photo: Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública

Revelations about the insecurity of the prison units came after the prions break when investigators found that those who tried to flee the maximum security wing had keys to the cells and weapons. There appeared to be complicity by law officers within the prison system.

Such appeared to be the case Thursday when searchers turned up 68 liters of alcohol, 800 grams of crack cocaine and marijuana, 580 knives and swords, 10 cell phones, two cell phone chips, and 3.2 million colons in cash. None of these items are permitted.

The security at the prison in minimal because visitors mix with the inmates. There also are conjugal visits. Wives and girlfriends frequently are detained trying to smuggle contraband into the prisons.

The prisons are run by Adaptación Social, a dependency of the Ministerio de Justicia y Paz.

Walter Navarro, vice minister of Seguridad, said efforts are being made to beef up control of those who visit the prisons. Some of the Fuerza Pública officers who worked at the prison Thursday are trained in discovering metal objects like mine. They used electronic devices to detect illegal objects.

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