U.S. will provide $800,000 to improve prisons here

The U.S. government will invest $800,000 to help improve Costa Rica’s prisons.

A U.S. Embassy release said that part of the money will go toward the development of a special, independent unit that will fight corruption within the prisons.

A second aspect will be improve the operation procedure and training mainly at the La Reforma prison complex in Alajuela.

In addition, the U.S. government will help with an evaluation of the need for a new maximum security prison, said the embassy.

The money comes from the Central American Regional Security Initiative, said the embassy.

The projects are in conjunction with the Ministerio de Justicia y Paz, which runs the prisons through the Adaptación Social agency. Experts from the United States will visit to provide training and advice, according to the proposal.

La Reforma has been a trouble spot for the Costa Rican prison hierarchy. A frustrated prison break resulted in the death of an inmate and was quickly followed by the beating death of one of the ringleaders. Guards are facing criminal prosecution over that.

Just 10 years ago a U.S. firm offered to build a state-of-the-art maximum security prison as a concession. But the Sala IV rejected the idea and said that having foreigners keep track of prisoners would be unconstitutional. Some politicians said at the time a new prison was not needed.

The prisons are rife with corruption. Prisoners seem to be able to obtain any goods they need, including drugs. Periodic prison sweeps turn up weapons, cell telephones and drugs. Many of the prisons are overcrowded and controls by criminal gangs inside.

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